Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. Greece, 2015. Plus Productions, Alpha TV, Ote tv, Aegean Airlines. Screenplay by Christopher Papakaliatis. Cinematography by Yannis Drakoularakos. Produced by Christopher Papakaliatis, Chris Papavasiliou, Dorothea Paschalidou, Kostas Sousoulas. Music by Kostas Christides. Production Design by Giorgos Georgiou. Costume Design by Maria Kontodima. Film Editing by Stella Filippopoulou.
A emotional roller coaster that reaches for epic status in three stories: in the first, an Athenian girl (Niki Vakali) is nearly raped in an alley before a Syrian refugee (Tawfeek Barhom) saves her and helps her escape, and then when he later runs into her on the street, it inspires a deep and tender romance. At the same time, an older man (Minas Hatzisavvas) who is struggling under the country’s economic crisis feels provoked to join a group of Golden Dawn-esque black-shirts who commit violence against the city’s illegal immigrants who have arrived from the most politically volatile parts of the world. The film then moves to an affair between a successful businessman (Christopher Papakaliatis, who also writes and directs) and the Swedish efficiency expert (Andrea Osvárt) who has been hired to downsize his company, then in the third movement ends with the best of the tales, that of a recent German immigrant (J.K. Simmons) who finds unlikely romance with a frustrated and delightful housewife (Maria Kavoyianni) at a supermarket. Encompassing a multitude of themes having to do with economic crisis-era Greek politics, Papakaliatis’ melodrama eventually makes the connections between all these players for an experience that is as calculated and twee as often as it is poignant and powerful. The first of the three tales fails the hardest, demanding such reverence for the romance between citizen and refugee that it practically plays like a commercial for an NGO, right down to Vakali’s somewhat overdetermined performance and an emphasis on treating characters more like symbols than humans. Papakaliatis himself appears in the middle tale, one whose accusations against the EU are about as subtle as an atom bomb (right down to the anti-depressants to deal with the state of the world and lectures from Northern Europe about being responsible for your own happiness) but which is made palatable by the genuinely sexy chemistry between him and Andrea Osvart as his lady love, but he makes the wisest decision to end with the charismatic romance that is buoyed so beautifully by an outstanding performance by Kavoyianni as a woman who can barely let cherry tomatoes go by without a wise and witty rant. A few speeches hit deep, but for the most part this film is at its most effective when it isn’t trying so hard to teach us lessons (including the What You Do to Others You Do To Yourself conclusion to the first story); that it makes its points and then drags out its conclusion diffuses quite a bit of its power, but it does leave you with a few things to think about as well.