A New Yorker profile of Netflix’s television chief earlier this year granted astonishing access to see how the sausage gets made at the streamer. She summed up the company’s ideal product in one effective metaphor: the gourmet cheeseburger, an offering “premium and commercial at the same time.” But “Bird Box Barcelona” feels like a capitulation to the McDonald’s model, something predictable for global consumers but with specifics tailored enough to local markets.
While the original film played on American individualism as a backdrop for its thrills, this Spanish-language spinoff uses the Catholic Church’s institutional imprint on the nation to add additional gravitas to an otherwise B-movie premise. “Bird Box Barcelona” plays with the spiritual undercurrents that come naturally with a world teetering on the verge of rapture. One Catholic priest, as seen in flashbacks throughout the film, sees a divine miracle occurring through the collapse of society.
But the film’s protagonist Sebastián (Mario Casas) sees things differently. He tries to navigate a world where making eye contact with the mysterious harbingers of doom triggers people to take their own life by seeing a light within people. Encouraged by his daughter to act as a good “shepherd” for the lost lambs among humanity, his quest for survival and salvation assumes a messianic glint.
Too bad the writer/director Pastor duo (aptly named) are a little too tipsy off the metaphorical communion wine to really consummate this connection. Its allegory is interesting but insufficient. “Bird Box Barcelona” has no idea what to do with its great redeemer beyond sticking him in the middle of a family reunification story that gives the characters an excuse for geographic mobility … and very little else.