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Hard Goodbyes: My Father (Unrated)

Release Date: September 16th, 2005 (NYC-Village East Cinemas)
The Cast: Yorgos Karayannis, Stelios Mainas, Ioanna Tsirigouli
Directed by Penny Panayotopoulou.
In Greek with subtitles.

BASIC PREMISE: Elias (Karayannis) copes with the death of his father (Mainas).

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: The plot is so simple and predictable, but it is still entertaining because of the Karayannis' surprisingly good performance as the young boy, Elias. The setting is in 1969 around the time of the first landing on the moon. In the beginning of the film, his father jokes about flying to the moon and really brings out a lot of joy in son. Their connection is very strong. After his father has a tragic accident which is never actually shown, Elias refuses to accept that his father is dead because he left him a note telling him that he will return. His mother copes in her own way too by being inactive. Predictably, at school he lies to his teacher that he looks tired because he didn't sleep well and that he lives with his godfather while his parents are away. He really does have a godfather, but he does not like him--he simply lacks the warmth and tenderness of his real father. Everything from the cinematography to the set design and even the plot development feels very real and believable. There are also a few imaginative scenes. Fortunately, there are no melodramatic scenes or violent fights; the real charm of this film is in the little subtleties and, especially, the young boy's very strong acting skills. Even without plot twists, Elias is such a strong character that he makes the film very easy to watch and thoroughly engaging from start to finish.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Everyone deals with tragedy in a different way. Young children, especially, don't truly understand the meaning of death yet. It is very heartbreaking to watch Elias gradually accept the reality of his father's death. The tie-in with the moon landing is also very interesting and full of emotion. Everyone eventually must go through a difficult moment in their lifetime and this film shows you just how important it is to face reality no matter how harsh and sad it is. Even when a family member passes a way, the unconditional love you have for them (and vice-versa) implies that the love is still there even when they are gone--especially given the power of memories. That is a very uplifting and heartwarming thought to take with you.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Minimal and predictable plot.


THE BOTTOM LINE: Equally heartbreaking and heartwarming, this film is filled with very small, quiet pleasures as well as a strong performance from a young actor. Its ultimate surprise is that although its plot is grounded in reality, it often feels fresh and imaginative.

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)

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