Hard Goodbyes: My Father | Movie Reviews + Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Hard Goodbyes: My Father

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In Penny Panayotopoulou's debut 2002 feature set in Greece in 1969, 10-year-old Elias (Yorgos Karayannis) is sensitive and prone to fantasy, a situation engendered by his parents' cold relationship and his salesman father's long absences. In their brief moments together, Elias and his father delight in swapping tales of their imagined journeys, and eagerly discuss the impending U.S. Apollo moon landing. A sudden death leaves the family stunned, and Elias, in his anger and grief, concocts a fantasy to explain it all away, a fantasy that to a small boy seems as likely as the reality of men actually walking on the moon. With the lack of dramatic narrative, the final third of the film lags, especially as young Elias' somewhat precocious coping mechanisms become repetitive. This film is obviously a personal feature for Panayotopoulou, and this may account for the film's tendency to wallow a bit. Yet, Hard Goodbyes is composed of small moments that ring true, and the acting is appropriately naturalistic. Despite its minor flaws, the film is gentle and bittersweet, and should be commended for not overplaying its life-death-travel metaphors. In Greek with subtitles. 2.5 cameras

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