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
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 6, 2015