What They Say:
Based on the graphic novel by Alberto Vázquez.
There is light and beauty, even in the darkest of worlds. Stranded on an island in a post-apocalyptic world, teenager Dinky and her friends hatch a dangerous plan to escape in the hope of finding a better life. Meanwhile, her old friend Birdboy has shut himself off from the world, pursued by the police and haunted be demon tormentors. But unbeknownst to anyone, he contains a secret inside him that could change the world forever.
The blu-ray portion of Birdboy is equipped with both the English and the original Spanish dub presented in DTS-HD 5.1, while its DVD counterpart shows off Dolby Digital 5.1 for the same. The audio remains crisp and clear in both versions and I did not experience any dropouts or unequalized audio throughout either viewings. Another important thing to mention regarding the sound for Birdboy is that the score is friggin’ masterful. Audio plays a surprisingly large role in the telling of this story, so having great quality was a must to ensure the perfection of this release.
As expected, Birdboy’s Blu-ray disc comes to us in 1080p HD (Widescreen) with the DVD sitting at a less impressive non-HD anamorphic setting. Despite its rather minimalist art style, the visuals for Birdboy are nothing less than stunning, rivaling that of many high-end animation releases. Its dark and brooding imagery turn what looks like a childrens’ movie into one of the most visually disturbing films of recent memory. And just like the audio portion, this aspect of the release is essentially flawless.
Slipcover fans, rejoice! Birdboy’s dual release comes with the standard-issue Blu-ray box tucked neatly in a fitted slipcover that mimics its design and structure. I would have liked to see different designs on both, rather than just copies of the two, but beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose. Either way, the original box design is eye-catching and the rear image takes up a [thankfully] minimalist approach, not overcrowding you with thumbnails and all that nonsense that we typically see on anime releases.
For those of you unfamiliar with my video reviews, I am a huge fan of those old-school animated selection screens that have all but vanished in recent years. Luckily for me, however, Birdboy has not fallen into that trap. The main menu of the Blu-ray loops a collection of memorable scenes from the film over an ominously ambient track from the OST, creating a seamless and alluring menu that doesn’t seem over the top or unnecessary. It is truly one of the best that I have seen in quite some time.
As if excelling in every other category wasn’t enough, Birdboy comes equipped a handful of special features that easily holds up, if not exceeds, that of many similar releases. The biggest of these features is the original short film from Alberto Vasquez (One of the two directors on this title) that the full-length feature is adapted from. On top of that, it also has interviews with the directors as well as one of the most captivating trailers GKids has ever released.
Content: (Please note that the content portion of the review may contain spoilers)
There is a monster inside each and every one of us. From the second that we’re able to think for ourselves, we are challenged by the seamlessly endless world wrapped around us. For some people, that world may be as small as a single town — a single house, even. But for others, that world can be much, much larger. Birdboy is a film that takes this idea and mutilates it beyond recognition. It is a film designed to show us the evils of that world and how, by comparison, we will never stack up. But it is also a film that illustrates our desire to challenge that and how those challenges sculpt the person we ultimately become.
Despite the film’s title, Birdboy is actually not the main character here. He’s more of an ideal or a symbol than anything else- a tactic that directors Alberto Vasquez and Pedro Rivero are clearly not afraid to overuse. Instead, the movie focuses on a young girl named Dinky. Being raised in a toxic household where she is essentially thrown aside in favor of a younger half-sibling, Dinky’s life has become a grind on a day-to-day basis alone. And even though her household seems like a cakewalk in comparison to the lives of several other characters, it’s clear to see that she still feels incomplete. This subject matter is actually one of the main focal points Birdboy beats into us time and time again.
Dinky, along with several of her friends, all share one thing in common. They want to escape. The town in which they live (Which I believe to be a less-than-subtle metaphor for present-day Mexico) has gone to hell. The poverty levels have gone through the roof, leaving many civilians to sort through trash at a nearby garbage dump just so they can eat. Among this dump is where the actual Birdboy resides, tucked away in a secret cave still brimming with life. But in stark contrast to his makeshift home, Birdboy lives in complete darkness. His father, who used to tend to the lighthouse before their home was in ruins, had been killed by police for suspected drug trafficking when Birdboy was still young. This created a literal and metaphorical demon within Birdboy that showcases much of the central conflict the film has to offer.
The only way Birdboy knows how to keep this demon at bay is with drugs, another common theme used throughout the film. In fact, one of the two ways he acquires these drugs is from a local boy named Zachariah, who steals them from his drug-addicted [literal] spider of a mother. The other way is from Dinky herself, who takes them from her home as she understands Birdboy needs them in order to feel safe. These drugs, called “happy pills” in the film, essentially suppress Birdboy’s emotions and keep him from letting that demon out to destroy the world around him. So, if we’re viewing things from Birdboy’s perspective, the demon destroying the world is more akin to Birdboy’s resentment for society destroying his own world. IE: The people he has surrounded himself with. Birdboy fears that if he does not hold the demon in, the only ties he has left with the world following the death of his father will, too, be taken from him.
Meanwhile, Dinky and the others are facing a completely different battle. As I mentioned earlier, nearly everyone in Birdboy wishes to escape. And while Birdboy himself may escape with the use of drugs, Dinky’s desire for a new life takes on a more direct approach. She abandons the island with her friends and gets wrapped up in an even harsher environment than the one she started in. She trades her relatively ‘comfortable’ life for one filled with violence and terror, and it makes us realize that, sometimes, escaping isn’t possible at all. Seeing what happens to Dinky is yet another symbol for how humanity’s constant strive for a better life only makes things more difficult, and how we’re safest when we just don’t move. It also shows that people born into poverty are essentially locked into their place in the world and, if the viewers can be in agreement that the world of Birdboy is, in fact, Mexico, the film takes on an entirely different meaning as so many of the characters are so desperate to escape.
The thing with Birdboy is that it’s very hard to pinpoint just one meaning as the film contains so many twists and turns that viewers are bound to get lost at points. But I feel as though that’s where so much of its beauty comes from. This isn’t just a movie, it’s a symbolic manifestation of how the directors view their world as a whole. They acknowledge the near impossibility of escape and throw in as many obstacles and horrible realities that they can because, at its core, the world is an evil place. More often than not, there is no happy ending. Birdboy is a movie designed to show us that. It takes small hints of beauty and bashes each of their heads in, serving as a harsh wake-up call for all dreamers alike. It is excruciatingly poignant and realistic, even when all elements of its world are borderline nonsensical. This level of storytelling and symbolism are almost unparalleled in the world of cinema, and I can not do it even a hint of justice by simply stating how I view it. Birdboy is a movie that you must see for yourself. It is truly an experience like no other.
Dark, disturbing, and remarkably powerful, Birdboy brings us to a world that has already passed the brink of destruction. Built entirely upon symbolism and backed by the horrifying ambience of its original score, this film is designed to destroy you. It teaches us the evils of man and the desire for something more better than almost any film before it. And with visuals and two dubs that are borderline god-tier, it has an easy time doing it. But with how easy that is, it’s important to note how hard it may be to take it in. If you don’t mind doing a little thinking while movie-watching, dive into the world of Birdboy and succumb to its darkness. It is a truly haunting perspective that is sure to change your outlook on life, even if only for a moment.
English DTS-HD Master 5.1 Audio, Spanish DTS-HD Master 5.1 Audio, English, Spanish, and French Subtitles, the Original Birdboy Short Film, Interviews With the Directors, and the Original Theatrical Trailer.
English Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio, English, Spanish, and French Subtitles, the Original Birdboy Short Film, Interviews With the Directors, and the Original Theatrical Trailer.
Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: A+
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: A+
Extras Grade: A+
Released By: Shout Factory
Release Date: March 13, 2018
Running Time: 76 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p High Definition/Standard Definition Anamorphic (DVD)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen