Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB
Original title: Nyfes
Greece/USA/France, 2004. Alco Films, Alpha TV, CL Productions, Cappa Defina Productions, Cinegram, Eurimages Council of Europe, Eurimages, FilmNet, Greek Film Center, Greek Ministry of Culture, K.G. Productions, Lexicon Factory, Odeon. Screenplay by Ioanna Karystiani. Cinematography by Giorgos Arvanitis. Produced by Barbara De Fina, Terry Dougas, Pantelis Voulgaris. Music by Stamatis Spanoudakis. Production Design by Dimitris Katsikis. Costume Design by Eva Nathena, Damianos Zarifis. Film Editing by Takis Giannopoulos.
Women from all over eastern Europe are gathered on a boat in Piraeus and sent to America as mail-order brides. One of them (Victoria Haralabidou) is a skilled seamstress who is travelling to Chicago to replace her sister, who came back home to Greece without marrying the man who was intended for her.
Haralabidou is on a ship with 700 women from countries as varied as Greece, Russia and Turkey, all of them having no idea about where they are going and certain only about the fact that they are never going to see their homes again. Our heroine’s skills with a sewing machine have her find a position in first class as seamstress to a group of travelling performers, and it is there that she meets an American photographer (Damian Lewis) who is going home after failing to raise any interest in his series of war photos. The two of them discover a deep attraction between them, but it is doomed by their separate destinies and her own personal sense of responsibility.
While brimming with rich stories and a fantastic sense of place and time, this film concentrates too much on the listless romance between the two leads. The actors are excellent, but their chemistry is only a mild thump in a fascinating tale of the immigrant experience being shunned into the background; it’s like watching Titanic without the shipwreck or Celine Dion’s song.
Certainly worth seeing for the tapestry of experiences it encompasses, and its impressive historical detail, but don’t expect it to wrap you up completely.
Toronto International Film Festival: 2004