All those people going somewhere on public transport, but no longer speaking to each other, staring out of the window or even reading, how they close themselves off into their own world by putting their headphones in, checking their text messages, chatting on their phones... But Audrey Camuzet (Anaïs Demoustier) is a little different, she is on her way to work as a chambermaid at a large, expensive hotel yet still finds the time to enjoy the sight of sparrows fluttering around outside, especially when one lands on the frame of the carriage window. Then it's back to the daily grind, as she arrives at her job which she has no love for and lies about not being able to work an extra day to her superior: it's bad enough on her usual shift.
There is another character in Bird People, and he was far less interesting for a very good reason which became clear in the second half of the movie. The first half was mostly belonging to Josh Charles, as once we had been introduced to Audrey we moved onto the tale of a successful businessman staying at the hotel for a conference which will guide the way his company goes for the next while, and a lot of money is riding on him getting the deal his bosses want. Yet as well as the fictional company the plot concerned itself with, there were other companies intruding, real life ones who littered the film with distracting product placement, most worryingly for a brand of cigarettes whose packaging is featured prominently, not to mention every character smoking like a chimney.
Before this, some time before, smoking was part and parcel of the moviegoing experience, not only in the auditorium where the cinema patrons could puff away on coffin nails to their heart's content - all right, not content, exactly - but on the screen as well as the heroes and heroines lit up to prove their ruggedness or shared a cigarette for romantic reasons, though after a while as Humphrey Bogart or Yul Brynner would have told you had they not been diagnosed with deadly cancer, the health benefits were demonstrated to be nonexistent and the tide began to turn against tobacco. Nowadays you'd be likely to get a disclaimer during the end credits of certain movies telling us no tobacco companies paid for promotion in their running time, something notably lacking from Bird People.
It didn't precisely ruin the film, but once you noticed how many brand labels were deliberately displayed towards the camera it did rather go against the spirit of a lofty art movie that this would claim to be when it was so shackled to advertising: there was even a big emotional scene with Charles where he paused before bursting into tears to ensure a mineral water bottle's logo was pointing at the camera. Fair enough, they had to get their funding from somewhere, but it was an uncomfortable fit with the more high-falutin' aspects that unfolded once we returned to Audrey. In the meantime, Charles' businessman, bizarrely called Gary Newman presumably after the synth pop star, suffers a crisis in his hotel room and chucks in his expensive job and tells his wife (Radha Mitchell, seen only on a laptop screen) over the internet their marriage is finished.
None of this is particularly compelling since we're not very sure how to react, director and co-writer Pascale Ferran apparently feeling sympathy rather than disdain, but it's difficult to be certain. More intriguing is what happens to Audrey when she goes to clean his room only to find he hasn't checked out after all; this unexpected development in her routine brings about another one, where she turns into a sparrow. You read that correctly, she goes up to the roof of the hotel and suddenly she's a little birdie, fluttering about outside, looking in windows, getting hungry and having to find more product placement to eat (I suppose we should be thankful sparrows don't smoke), all the while interacting with an environment in a manner she had never considered before including avoiding predators, much in a parallel to Gary's setting off on a course into the unknown has with his decision. This wildlife detour was by far the most interesting part of the film, so much so you'll wish the story had just been about Audrey, though most would find this a headscratcher. Music by Béatrice Thiriet.