CHARLES DE GAULLE AIRPORT is one of the worst things about Paris. It's an odd, awkward travel hub, full of strange, vaguely futuristic (not in a cool way) details, confusingly laid-out escalators in giant clear tubes, and nonsensically sequenced terminals. It is also where almost all of Pascale Ferran's Bird People takes place.
Bird People follows two strangers who rarely leave CDG: Audrey (Anaïs Demoustier), a Parisian student who works a miserable job as a housekeeper at the airport Hilton, and Gary (Josh Charles), an overworked American who wakes up in a night sweat at said Hilton, bums a cigarette, learns the French word for "anxiety," and decides mid-business trip to quit everything he's ever committed to.
Bird People's subject matter seems almost aggressively ordinary. The camera catches all the small, particular details of being in transit—from the rough, scratched surface of a baggage claim conveyer belt, to the automated, multilingual PA announcements, to the way people traveling alone rest their feet on their luggage when a missed connection or delayed flight means sleeping in the airport. These are things you might not notice as a traveler, but they become a weird daily reminder of the passage of time if you don't ever leave. In one of Bird People's best moments, Audrey, on the train to work, counts the hours she spends a week in transit—it's a sequence where a few seconds of screen time are dedicated to every single person on the train, one by one, capturing their scattered, nervous thoughts, their phone conversations, the music piped through their headphones.
Not much else happens, for a very long time, and when something does, it is truly jarring and strange. The first three-quarters of Bird People give the impression that it's going to be a super French, super existential version of Lost in Translation. But it isn't. Instead, it turns into something more like a fairy tale—and one that boasts a ridiculously charming use of "Space Oddity." It takes one of the least beautiful, most boring places in a city known for its monuments—the Eiffel Tower appears one time—and makes it seem more interesting than any of them.