The Stages of a Relationship
“Duck Butter “ is about Naima (Alia Shawkat) and Sergeo (Laia Costa) who begin a passionate affair that reflects all the various stages of a relationship. Naima is an actress trying to make the transition from commercials to indies and gets a bit part in a film by Mark and Jay Duplass—an opportunity she blows by being uncooperative on set. Later, while drinking at a bar, she harangues a trio of middle-aged women about global warming. One of the performers, Sergeo, interrupts Naima’s diatribe and asks her to dance and then they go back to Sergeo’s place. By the way, the expression “Duck Butter” is a crude Spanish term for vaginal discharge and it is up to you to see how it befits this film that is an earnest, genuine attempt to show the familiar hardships of a relationship, specifically one between two women. It’s with sincerity and formal banality Director Miguel Areta approaches his subject with both sincerity and banality and shoots the film in handheld medium shots with very little regard for composition or framing. In this way, he allows the actresses to be the center of attention.
The film’s sex scenes feel intimate and real and we see that the director respects his subjects and his actresses, shooting the sex scenes simply and unglamorously. It’s an honest portrait of sex with its complications and messy qualities and we hear women speaking openly and casually about their orgasms.
Even though the women have just met, they want to spend 24 hours together and that means sex every hour, doing everything together, and no sleep. This is a very intimate, radical idea based on the belief that we waste our best moments in a relationship getting comfortable with someone, and letting feelings build up. If we have it all at once, would it be any different?
We are never quite sure if this film is a satire or a self-indictment but we are sure that this is quite a free-spirited film. Shawkat and Costa have clear chemistry, and individually they create curious, challenging characters. Together, they provide a subtle picture of a bond that can work whether they’ve known each for a few hours or even a few years.
“Duck Butter” is easy to understand if you consider Naima’s anxieties (and her fighting them) as the film’s primary interest, instead of anything revelatory about relationships. As she faces her emotional fears, Naima certainly has a strong counterpart with the more liberated Sergio, who uses singing, painting, and anything else to make sure she is heard. There is an unshakable theme here about two artistic women trying to find their voices.