Dominic Bridges’ debut is a mostly amusing black comedy that shows ingenuity and a personal sense of style but fumbles through a lackluster climax.
“You been watching gay porn on my laptop?”
“No I haven’t. Mel, I haven’t been watching gay porn on your laptop.”
“Who else has been watching porn on my laptop? Who else lives here?”
It’s not your everyday lover’s spat, but Mel (Mandeep Dhillon) raises a good question and one that increasingly comes to haunt the life of Hussein (Mim Shaikh), a British estate agent who puts food on the table by turning a blind eye to his moral compass.
For all of us home is the place where you take a load off from work, eat meals with loved ones, Netflix and chill, but what if the aforementioned also held true for another person who just so happens to call your address ‘home’ as well? The idea of an uninvited houseguest residing in your domicile entirely unbeknownst to you has already been explored to hilarious effect in Kiwi horror comedy Housebound. Likewise, Two Pigeons works best as a darkly comedic riff on home invasion thrillers rather than a comment on cut-throat economics in the housing market (which it somewhat misguidedly tries to become).
Following a snazzy morning routine montage of Hussein getting ready for work, a skeletal and ninja-like squatter literally crawls out of the woodwork. Two Pigeons opens with the quote, “We’re all scavengers,” and runs with it, introducing us to Orlan (Javier Botet), a man of Spanish origin who lives off Hussein’s remains and leftovers. He starts off as a radical environmentalist:, one who erases his ecological footprint by sneaking into your footsteps.
Sure, he may use your toothbrush and meticulously place it back in its original spot so you are none the wiser, syphon your mouthwash, and dry off his scrotum with your towel (neatly folding it and placing it back on the sink, next to your washing cloth), but what is life without sharing? He makes the most of your teabags, squeezing them for another cup, and is an expert at wielding your nunchucks while you saunter off to sleep.
His only two friends in life are the titular pigeons perched on the apartment’s windowsill. He occasionally anthropomorphizes them, ad-libs their dialogue and seems to pretend they are the stars of a soap opera. Slowly but surely, though, it dawns on viewers that this is a clever way of disclosing Orlan’s tragic backstory. In the early stages, Two Pigeons gets comedic mileage out of an amusing contrast between the well-groomed, career-driven Hussein, who approaches life with a go-get-’em attitude, and the shambling, parasitic routine of vagrant-looking Orlan.
Following an efficient setup, writer-director Dominic Bridges taps into an admirable sense of escalation. What if the squatter actively interferes in your day-to-day life? Resetting your alarm clock so you have to rush to work is one thing but gurgling used mouthwash back into the bottle? Switching your shampoos and bodily lotions with laundry detergents and housecleaning products? Or pissing on your cutlery? It goes beyond cheeky and well into the realm of vile privacy breaches that is sure to titillate fans of genre cinema (think Mientras Que Duermes, but played more lightheartedly).
Two Pigeons is never groundbreaking, and on more than one occasion has us questioning the rationale of Hussein, who really takes his time putting two and two together. Still, the film maintains the viewer’s interest by keeping us guessing at Orlan’s motivations while simultaneously having us wince at the next round of transgressions he has planned to make Hussein’s life just a smidgeon more miserable. Aside from a few truly inspired moments of raunch (like Orlan blowing his nose in Mel’s clean panties) Two Pigeons mostly remains wryly amusing rather than laugh-out-loud funny. A game cast really makes the most out of every situation.
The movie heads towards an inevitable confrontation between the two men and Bridges fails to subvert expectations. On the contrary, all too abruptly and far too explicitly in terms of backstory that attentive audiences have already pieced together, Two Pigeons ends on a sour note. Had the ending (up to and including the credits) been recalibrated, Bridges’ debut could have reached the next level he’s aiming for. As is, the social drama feels a bit ham-fisted. Even so, Two Pigeons has enough nasty treats in store to at least warrant a look from genre fans.