Suntan (3 stars)

Cheap Cuts Documentary Film Festival

This perceptive Greek midlife crisis drama is let down by a sledgehammer ending

Can a misjudged ending flummox a film? That's the sticky question lathered over this cross-generational romantic obsession drama. Director Argyris Papadimitropoulos makes fine work of the almost-poignant, then painful mix of midlife meltdown and cringe-comedy, but his horror-show climax saddles Suntan with a more generic outlook.

Greek TV star Makis Papadimitriou gives a well-judged study in sad-sack inertia as Kostis, a 42-year-old doctor deployed as GP to a small Greek island. Initially, Papadimitropoulos – whose last film, Wasted Youth, also pivoted on generation gaps – pinpoints the dour doc's character in crisp, cruel ironies. Kostis arrives by boat in mid-winter, but he has clearly missed life's boat. And his demeanour is so frosty, even a nodding Santa decoration seems livelier.

Yet what could have been a hangdog character piece soon becomes something else: the anti-Lost in Translation, or Death in Venice under attack from Spring Breakers. When mildly injured 21-year-old Anna (Elli Tringou) – plus her noisily free-spirited pals – visits Kostis's practice, she becomes the focus of the doctor's amour fou. Smitten, Kostis starts hitting the beach and nearby parties, boozing and smoking like a teenager.

As Papadimitropoulos thrusts his lead's sagging form among the lean, exposed flesh of his new friends, DoP Christos Karamanis's widescreen images unflinchingly contrast youth's energies with ageing's betrayals. Kostis is wounded by life, lacking self-awareness and – in his naivety – near-pitiable; the kids are carefree to the point of carelessness. At its sharpest, Suntan anatomises these generational tensions keenly, keeping our sympathies balanced. Yet as high-spirited beach-side hoedowns turn sour and Kostis becomes stalker-ish, a turn for the overwrought is taken.

When Papadimitropoulos exposes life-begins-at-40 clichés to the revealing glare of a harsh sun, you can't accuse him of soft-pedalling cruel truths. But when he resorts to sledgehammer tactics for the finale, the thud is dulling.

Selected release from Fri 28 Apr.

Suntan

  • 3 stars
  • 2016
  • Greece
  • 1h 46min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Argyris Papadimitropoulos
  • Cast: Makis Papadimitriou, Ellie Tringou, Dimi Hart
  • UK release: 28 April 2017

On a remote Greek island, a middle-aged doctor (Papadimitriou) has a fling with a young tourist (Tringou) and then becomes a bit too keen on her for her liking. A poignant mix of midlife meltdown and painful comedy is seriously flummoxed by an ending that’s as subtle as a sledgehammer.

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