Country: Greece / others
Movie Review: Panos H. Koutras’ “Xenia”, selected as the Greek entry for the best foreign-language film at the upcoming Academy Awards, is as much provocative as it is brittle. The story focuses on two drifting Greek brothers from Albanian descent whose mother died of too much drinking. Their father left home when the older one, Ody (Nikos Gelia), was two years old and the younger, Danny (Kostas Nikouli), was just a little baby. The latter, now a 16-year-old androgynous misfit with an atypical style of his own, is introduced to us in a scene that takes place in a medical office where he offers his body to a doctor who gives him money and asks if he feels better from his obsessions and hallucinations. Danny is about to leave Crete and adventure himself into Athens, where he will meet his brother. The death of their mother and the fact that their father doesn’t recognize them as his sons, let them in a situation of imminent deportation. Also, they are constantly victims of the provocation and protests, often accompanied with violence, of the fanatic nationalists who aspire to have a Greece for the Greek and the Christians. After an imprudent incident involving Danny, who shot one of those agitators in the leg, the brothers decide to meet with the former companion of their mother, the exuberant gay Tassos (Aggelos Papadimitriou) who reveals the whereabouts of their father, a candidate to the right-wing party who lives wealthily with his new family in Thessaloniki. This is exactly the city where the brothers are heading next in order to fulfill an old family dream that consists in Ody’s participation in a famous singing competition. However, the impulsive Danny takes the opportunity to visit his insensitive father, carrying a pistol in his backpack. Despite addressing the socio-political turmoil and pop-culture lived in the country, the film’s undertones oscillate unevenly between rebellious and pulpy. Sometimes it feels saccharine, losing robustness, and other times it gives false indications of wanting to go wild, which never works well when attempted. The plot, co-written by Mr. Koutras and his habitual associate Panagiotis Evangelidis, repeatedly deviates from its main course of events to indulge in long musical passages, a few forced feel-good moments, and overdramatic confrontations that seem to be taken from the Greek theater.