This is a movie about home and lack of home, about ruins and dreams, about hate and poverty and the struggle for survival. It’s by far the most challenging film I’ve seen in the festival this year, and I’m very glad I did.
Fifteen-year-old Dany has a mission: now that his Albanian mother is dead, he will go to Athens and reunite with his older brother Odysseas; together they will find their long-lost Greek father, get a DNA test thereby obtaining Greek citizenship and all sorts of freedoms, including the freedom to leave this godforsaken country with a Greek passport. Oh, and golden-voiced Ody will compete in “Greek Star”, a singing reality show that’s sure to win him fame and fortune, with Dany tagging along.
This is a bit of an odd movie. Yes, most of it is about the harsh realities of present-day Greece—grinding poverty, rampant fascism, the struggle to do whatever it takes to survive—but it has a number of surprisingly lighthearted scenes, most of them involving Ody. The gruff, scruffy, down-to-earth ultra-straight boy who’s easily embarrassed by his queer little brother? He’s got a voice that makes angels weep, and if you give him a spotlight or enough wine he’ll turn into a fabulous diva and prance along with Dany. It’s amazing to watch.
Then you’ve got Dany’s dream/fantasy sequences, which seemed so jarringly off-key compared to the rest of the movie. I’m still not sure how they fit in, to be honest. When his pet rabbit Dido “died”, it looked like a hilariously bad special effects failure, but the truth is that Dido was always a plush toy that Dany had carried around for who knows how long. What does it mean, though? That Dany is growing up? But then why does he see visions of the bunny walking around and talking to him? I’m confused.
(Incidentally, that revelation was a relief, because I couldn’t help wondering how a real rabbit ate, drank and pooped, and how stressed it must be, carried around in that stuffy bag all day. But hey! Never a problem.)
Does Dany even need growing up, though? he’s a kid of weird contrasts: sometimes such a child, impulsive and thoughtless and hopped up on sweets, carrying all sorts of pretty sparkly shit in his bag. But he also shacks up with sugar daddies and carries a gun around to aim at fascists. Taking care of a dying drug-addicted mother and living in this hard world will do that to you, I guess. What does growing up mean for him? Getting a regular job, living day to day? That’s what Ody did in Athens until Dany swooped in and infected him with his crazy dreams. And suddenly, survival was not enough.
Because survival will just lead to things getting worse; if people just worry about their own problems they won’t see the big picture, care about the future, reverse the erosion of society. Already the economic downtown has caused hotels in Thessaloniki to be completely abandoned and overrun with wildlife. Compare that with the swanky villa belonging to the brothers’ biological father, all pristine and white with security up the wazoo. Greece needs more than fascist politicians living in swanky gated neighbourhoods while migrants and the chronically poor eke out a living.
But maybe not forever. Just like the Odysseus of myth, the brothers (along with many, many others) are cursed to wander, with no homeland they really want to call their own. Odysseus eventually made it home, after many terrible adventures. Let’s hope that things will likewise get better for Greece.