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Home alone 

Duck Season examines the secret lives of teens

You are 14, and days without school or parents to crack the whip are long, random, filled with boredom and profanity, junk food and video games.

American audiences will undoubtedly find the quality of lazy tween life remarkably familiar in the Mexican film Duck Season. Even the contents of 14-year-old Flama's (Daniel Miranda) refrigerator in his mother's middle-class Mexico City apartment seem imprinted by global values of empty calories and brand names. There is Jell-O and aerosol whipped cream sucked directly from the canister, and Coca-Cola, all ingested while playing Halo.

Flama's mother has gone out for the day and left Flama and his best friend, Moko (Diego Cataño), home alone in the family's apartment, a kind of cushiony nest within the anonymous, sprawling, graffitied cityscape.

The pair are best friends, and because they are also teenage boys, their buddydom is understated, somnambulant and expressed in dreams and cozy routine rather than words.

Some of the best scenes in Duck Season are the ones that succinctly convey the quirks and rituals of teenagers left to their own devices. As Flama and Moko prepare for their Sunday without supervision, they go through rituals that define their countless Sundays together.

They prepare a bowl of chips and then fill two tall glasses with the global nectar of good times and caloric devil-may-care: Coke.

"Finger!" Flama commands each time the foam threatens to overflow the glass, to which Moko responds by poking his digit into the soda. The ritual continues until each glass is filled to the top.

Snacks prepared, like samurai equipped for battle, the friends then proceed to the couch for an endless match of Halo played with their game pseudonyms of "Bin Laden" and "Bush," global foes pulled from the equally absurd make-believe of adult politics.

Flama and Moko's convivial afternoon is interrupted by the arrival of the older and wiser 16-year-old teenage neighbor, Rita (Danny Perea), who borrows their kitchen oven ostensibly to bake a cake, but ends up spending an eternity at the place, sucked into the afternoon's slacker whirlpool.

The trio are then joined by a pizza delivery man, Ulises (Enrique Arreola), who, in one of the film's funniest sequences, races against the clock to deliver a pizza to Flama and Moko, dodging traffic and obstacles like Super Mario.

Ulises' own sense of dissatisfaction with adulthood finds a fertile resting place in Flama and Moko's adolescent, irresponsible Shangri-La. He calls his boss to tell him he will be delayed, argues with Flama over payment for the pizza, and eventually takes a bath, fantasizing about escape to a place far, far away from his grim, adult reality.

The duck season of the film's title is a kitschy oil painting in Flama's living room that has become the contested object in an ugly custody battle between his divorcing parents. The painting has significance for the boys, too, for its representation of flight and migration and the inevitable transition from child to adult.

Though the American set-dressing of video games and Coke and absent parents gives Duck Season the flavor of a John Hughes teen comedy, director Fernando Eimbcke brings a piquant, off-the-mainstream indie feel to his youth culture licks. Mostly, Duck Season has the kind of meandering, molasses plot seen in the graphic novel notions of Chris Ware or the proto-indie cinema of Jim Jarmusch (an influence most evident in the film's silvery black-and-white cinematography). Duck Season savors ellipses and languor and is more interested in capturing the character of life than offering big surprises and dramatic changes of fortune.

Duck Season could be accused of too often luxuriating in its slacker-stoner vibe. But viewers may forgive its faults for its otherwise accurate read on a teenage -- and young male -- sensibility that tends to move in the slowest of slow motion in resistance to the mad rush of adulthood.

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