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Rare Birds

Anyone seeking a regional recipe for whimsical comedy should check out this delightful Newfoundland concoction from Icelandic-Canadian director Sturla Gunnarsson. Set in an isolated inlet town populated by sad sacks and eccentrics, Rare Birds has echoes of Bill Forsyth’s best work. An excellent William Hurt plays Dave, a boozy chef who owns a failing restaurant called The Auk. Dave’s eccentric friend Phonse (a very funny Andy Jones) dreams up a scheme to attract birdwatchers with the pretence that a rare species of duck has been sighted in the area. Soon Dave’s restaurant is full of tourists, and he becomes romantically involved with part-time waitress Alice (Molly Parker). Making excellent use of the austere maritime settings, director Gunnarsson mounts the piece as a blackly comic buddy movie. The love story between Parker and Hurt becomes secondary to the friendship between the two men. Despite their apparent differences, Dave and Phonse are kindred spirits, each of them a rare bird pursing his individual passion far off the beaten track. Hurt and Jones play very well together, and Gunnarsson’s direction has just the right sardonic lightness to make this shaggy dog story a real charmer.
Canada, 2001. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 104 mins.

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