Cupid only occasionally hits his mark in the uneven Greek romantic drama Worlds Apart, a thematically linked trilogy of vignettes about three budding relationships in mid-economic-crisis Athens. Neophyte writer/director Christopher Papakaliatis eventually shows an affinity for filming two people in love, but his actors often lack the chemistry to make us believe that their bond transcends all socioeconomic boundaries.
The romance between Syrian refugee Farris (Tawfeek Barhom) and young Greek native Daphne (Niki Vakali) is especially hard to credit, as Barhom and Vakali’s listless performances deplete the energy of their characters’ flirty exchanges. When Barhom’s character bares his soul, telling her “I want you” in Greek, Vakali doesn’t even appear to be interested.
Unmoving acting likewise afflicts an affair between married Greek bureaucrat Giorgos (Papakaliatis) and his incoming Swedish boss Elise (Andrea Osvárt). Giorgos insists that she’s “cold” while he’s passionate, because she’s from Northern Europe and he’s from the South. The script sets Elise up to defy this uncharitable characterization when she and Giorgos make love for the first time, but Osvárt unintentionally undermines her character’s pre-coital excitement by looking as animated as a corpse.
Thanks to the expressive eyes and modest smiles of Maria Kavoyianni and J.K. Simmons, sparks fly between destitute Greek housewife Maria (Kavoyianni) and rich German historian Sebastian (Simmons). These two masterful performers convey a world of meaning just by looking at each other.
Written and directed by Christopher Papakaliatis
Opens January 13, Village East Cinema