Review: Until the Birds Return – En attendant les hirondelles (2017)

Photos : Hichem Merouche - a movie produced by PROLEGOMENES and LES FILMS PELLEAS - Algeria/France - 2016

Directed by: Karim Moussaoui | 113 minutes | drama | Actors: Hania Amar, Chawki Amari, Aure Atika, Mohamed Djouhri, Hassan Kachach, Nadia Kaci, Sonia Mekkiou, Mehdi Ramdani

You cannot shake off the past, whether you come from the Netherlands, America, Brazil or China. Or from Algeria. At least that is evident from the Algerian-French co-production ‘Until The Birds Return’. This debut consists of three consecutive stories that flow smoothly into each other. With a car as a means of transport from one story to another.

In the first story, a rich older man discovers that his affairs are not as good as he thought. In the second part, a young driver has to take a bride-to-be and her father through a remote area to her groom. In the third part, a neurologist becomes the victim of gossip. Gossip about alleged crimes during the bloody Algerian Civil War.

In all three stories, the past is bothering the characters. The rich old man is forced to spend more time with his former wife and son than with his handsome girlfriend. In the second story, the driver and the bride-to-be turn out to share a past. In the third story, the neurologist’s war history comes to the fore.

What the three stories also have in common is their unpredictable course. The rich man breaks down in a bad neighborhood and sees things there that he would rather not have seen. The driver and the bride have to deal with an unexpected illness, so they are forced to wait in a deserted hotel. The story about the neurologist also has its surprises. But most surprising is an exciting musical intermezzo, which reminds us that we are not looking at reality, but at a movie.

Until the Birds return will mainly appeal to a Western audience. The dilemmas faced by the characters are universal, but the environment is exotic, sometimes dark, always attractive. The dilapidated neighborhood with its intimidating satellite dishes, the abandoned hotel where the bride-to-be puts it on a sensual dance, a terrace in the middle of a rough wasteland, an orchard where two men discuss the sense and nonsense of ownership.

Then we also have the excellent acting and very attractive Hania Bazar, and besides the classical sounds of Bach we also hear exciting desert music. Moreover, the stories are never completely finished, so that we can fantasize about the sequel ourselves. For example, with ‘Until the Birds Return’ we get three attractive slices of life, which tell us to be careful with every step we take. Because the step you take today can stumble you tomorrow. Whether you come from the Netherlands or Algeria.