Starring: Alia Shawkat, Laia Costa, Mae Whitman, Hong Chau, Kate Berlant, Linsay Burdge, Kumail Nanjiani, Jenny O’ Hara, Mark and Jay Duplass
Directed by: Miguel Arteta
Written by: Miguel Arteta and Alia Shawkat
The last queer film that made me all warm and fuzzy inside was Weekend by Andrew Haigh. It told a very intimate portrait about two men who meet over the weekend. They have to figure out if they want to continue the relationship or not because one half of the couple is leaving for a very long time. It was a film that I still count in my top five favorite films of all time.
Duck Butter may very well be up there with that film. It reminds me of Weekend in the best ways. It provides a level of intimacy that we’re not used to seeing and a glimpse of two personalities as they come together for better or worse.
Duck Butter focuses on Naima (Alia Shawkat), a girl who’s trying her best to live day to day to the fullest within the constraints of her comfort zone, without compromising who she is. Her friend (Mae Whitman) goes on a blind date to a club, where she meets Sergio (Laia Costa). Sergio is a stunning free bird, electrifying to everyone and anyone she meets. The two ladies hit it off immediately, spending the night together to test out more of their chemistry. They decide to try something new. They suggest that they spend 24 hours together, having sex every hour on the hour. Naima doesn’t think she can do it. To prove it to herself and step outside of her comfort zone, she does. It becomes the wildest thing she’s ever done. It also becomes an experiment that will either go really right or really wrong.
When stepping into Duck Butter, I didn’t know what to expect. I’m so happy with what they gave me though. Duck Butter feels like a film that is so incredibly romantic without going overboard, but so tragically heartbreaking that you feel everything. You feel like you’re there with the characters, even if you don’t want to be. Duck Butter skews the romantic notions that we’re all accustomed to and gives you a new form of courtship that may or may not work.
Being together with someone for 24 hours can get exhausting. I can hardly be with people for more than four hours without my social anxiety flaring and needing to catch my breath. These two ladies going through it and watching their ever-changing perceptions of one another is so strangely beautiful. The first time it’s suggested you’re like “oh boy, this won’t end well.” In the end, it doesn’t, but seeing how that lead up to this place is so fucking fascinating.
Sergio and Naima are, again, two completely different people brought together by lust, the hope of love, and loneliness. Their problems, issues, baggage and more thrown on the table in these 24-hours that make it hard to watch, but essential to witness.
The film very quickly starts to become very claustrophobic in a sense. You’re in this small space with them. Close-ups on their faces and bodies as they talk and have sex are shot so beautifully. There’s also a bit of wanting to shift your eyes away. I found myself looking away at some parts to see if I wasn’t in that space as them. That’s how close this film gets to you. The commitment that they want to make to each other first start off with the best of intentions that are so pure and heartwarming. You want to root for them badly. Yet it slowly melts into disdain, regret, and sorrow.
Alia Shawkat, love of my life, is breathtaking in this film. There’s something about Shawkat on-screen that makes her demand your attention. As Naima, she’s cautious and brilliant, but stand-offish and doesn’t take chances. She’s smart as all hell, trying to break into acting if her mouth doesn’t get in the way. She’s a great character to watch on this journey and Shawkat is so raw and passionate. Shawkat carries a wondering look about her in the film that gives way to wanting to know what she’s feeling. You see it in her body language. You see it in her eyes. That’s important for a character like Naima and a credit to Shawkat on the actress that she is.
Have you guys ever heard that song by Nelly Furtado? “I’m Like A Bird”? That’s Laia Costa in this film. Another brilliant actress and one to definitely watch out for in the future. As Sergio, she’s so unrestricted, self-determined, gorgeous, and full of wanderlust that will last for days. Laia is a marvel when playing her cause you see in her eyes that she only wants the intimacy and love that Naima can give her. However, she comes with something all her own that no one can handle. Laia does something with Sergio that very much counters Naima in their scope as characters. She’s also very raw and honed in on what her character sees and things. It’s something of a wonder to watch her.
Please Watch This Film. Duck Butter feels like a personal yet deeply private film, one that layers romantic commitment like we’ve never seen before. It’s a film that will keep you tuned into the passionate journey of whats next and lets everything around you completely disappear. I was in absolute awe of this film and hope to see more like it, with this level of queer intimacy, in the future. Also, if you end up liking this film, I HIGHLY recommend watching Weekend.