Published Mar 05, 2009This Vietnamese film has been a minor hit on the festival circuit and is finally receiving a wide theatrical release. It follows three characters, each with their own set of problems, over the course of five days in Saigon.
Hai is a zookeeper in love with a woman who no longer loves him and his best friend, an elephant, is being sold to a zoo in India. Lan, a flight attendant, spends her down time between shifts at a local hotel, rendezvousing with a married pilot who won't leave his wife. Both seem resigned to their lots in life until they meet Thuy, a ten-year old girl who works in a blind factory in the countryside for her uncle.
Still torn up over the death of her parents and unwilling to put up with her uncle's temper, Thuy packs up her things and runs away to the city to forge her own life, selling roses on the street. Thuy befriends Hai and Lan independently and is soon spending her days at the zoo with Hai and crashing in Lan's hotel room at night. Inevitably, Thuy hatches a plan for the two to meet and the trio quickly form an unconventional family.
There's a Lost in Translation quality to The Owl and the Sparrow — strangers brought together by a mutual sense of being misunderstood. But it lacks the stylized cinematography and soundtrack that elevated that film above similar movies exploring the "stranger in a strange land theme."
By breaking up the film into five days, first-time director Stephane Gauger leads you to believe the week's rather minor events will lead to an emotional epiphany. But a rote Hollywood ending quickly deflates what little momentum Gauger built up over the course of the movie. The Owl and the Sparrow is a pleasant, if forgettable, film with little payoff. (Vagrant)