DCGreeks.com @ The Movies Presents
A Review of
Ο ΜΠΑΜΠΑΣ ΜΟΥ
June 20, 2004
The latest Greek film to grace DC audiences is Hard Goodbyes: My Father, an offering by director Penny Panayotopoulou that manages to pack almost every relevant and every irrelevant issue that affects Greeks living in the modern day. On its face, Hard Goodbyes, is a movie about the faith and patience of a young boy who awaits his father’s return. (This movie is worth seeing simply for the outstanding performance of 10 year old Giorgos Karayannis, who plays 10-year old Elias.) Yet beyond this simple plot line lay deeper issues of what it means to be a Greek man with responsibilities for ones wife, children, parents, siblings, and everyone else.
You walk into this film with a preconceived notion, based on the title, that the father must be some sort of jerk who neglects his wife and children and buries himself in his fruitless business trips to escape his responsibilities. His wife disrespects him and his eldest son, Aris, basically hates him, leaving the youngest child as the only one in his immediate family who loves him. He takes seriously his obligations to his aging mother and his brother who has kept himself an unwilling bachelor as her caretaker. You come to realize throughout the film that this is a man who loves both of his families and who is trying the best he can to be everything to everyone. It was comforting to see that the wife understood this and that she did in fact love him, and really only wished that he could be there more for her.
While this movie focuses on the 10-year old boy Elias, the two most interesting characters are his older brother, Aris, and the father’s brother, Uncle Theodosius. The first feels that he needs to grow up fast in his father’s absence, and the second finally feels that he has gotten the chance to grow up. Aris feels that he not only has to be the protector of the mother, but also the grim bearer of the harsh realities of life to his younger brother. Uncle Theodosius looks to shortcut the whole process of settling down with a wife and kids, and starts to live vicariously though his brother in his absence. This movie is at times excruciatingly slow in taking us down a path that we hope the director never reaches.
As a film, it wasn’t the best we’ve ever seen, but not the worst we’ve ever seen either. The performance of the kid makes up for the slow plot line. The director does an excellent job of capturing the look and feel of late 1960s Athens, from the layout of the apartment, to the blue and white hallways of the school house. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth the trip to Visions Theater off of Dupont Circle, now through Thursday or at any other showtimes across the country.