Greece’s official standard-bearer for Best Foreign-Language Film is a coming-of-age tale for a country in regression.
Ten days after their mother’s passing, fifteen-year-old Dany and his older, more level-headed brother Odysseas set off to find the absentee father who abandoned them at infancy. A lost boy in more ways than one, Dany is also a double outsider: The openly gay, half-Albanian youth is treated to frequent displays of open fascism in city squares and is targeted by violent homophobes just as often.
Director Panos H. Koutras delights in the sun-dappled environs of Athens and Thessaloniki even as he draws out the misbegotten ugliness lurking in the shadows; as with the even stranger A Blast, his film is pleasingly elliptical in the way it confronts Greece’s concurrent crises of economic decline and ascendant militancy.
For all that, Xenia has a winning streak of oddness: Here are animals both real and imagined, including an emotional-support bunny reminiscent of Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter‘s Bunzo, plus a fixation on Patty Pravo’s pop ballad “Tutt’al Più.” These flourishes pair nicely with the lead performances — Dany in a constant state of dangerous reverie, Ody bringing him back to reality. It’s a precarious situation for everyone in their orbit, the younger sibling most of all — his growing pains threaten to damage those around him as much as they hurt Dany himself.
Directed by Panos H. Koutras
Opens October 9, IFC Center