This debut from director Jacqueline Lentzou shows promise but is let down by thin characterisation and an alienating obliqueness
Moon, 66 Questions opens with VHS footage from the mid-90s. Two women converse over the top of it, though we gradually realise they’re speaking about the present day. One of these women is our protagonist, Artemis (Sofia Kokkali), who we learn is returning to Athens to help care for her father Paris (Lazaros Georgakopoulos). Having been paralysed as a result of a stroke, he now needs round-the-clock care. Artemis, then, has to contend with putting her life on hold, despite the fact that her relationship with her father has clearly deteriorated due to some unspoken issues in the past.
As a first feature by director Jacqueline Lentzou, Moon, 66 Questions shows plenty of promise. Sprinkled throughout the film are imaginative passages, like the one where we’re introduced to Artemis’ wider family offscreen – listening to them arrive at the door prior to Paris’ return home from the hospital – whilst we’re shown close-ups of rotten, mouldy food sitting on an artisanal table. All the better to comment on their largely self-satisfied, moneyed and wasteful tendencies, which come to the fore in a series of casually xenophobic interviews with potential nurses. The use of VHS footage also serves to deepen the relationship between past and present, which gradually becomes critical to film’s final scenes, formulating as they do around personal belongings and faded memories.
Unfortunately, it is in everything in between where the film falters. Moon’s principal mode of studied restrained naturalism – so popular on the modern European festival and arthouse circuit – is valiant but unexciting, mistaking obliqueness with mystery. That naturalism also gives the story an awkwardly literal feel – once we’ve reached the catharsis of the climax, all that’s left is a shrug of the shoulders. There is plenty of interest in the destination, but the journey mostly feels vague, in this case translating to dullness.
Part of the problem is that both Artemis and Paris are left as blank slates. The dedication to a particular aesthetic style is not offset by any real detail in their character or performance, meaning interest in their relationship very quickly dissipates. It’s hard to criticise Kokkali or Georgakopoulos, who do fine, convincing work with what they’re given, though they’re not exactly given much to do in the first place. One simply longs for a flick of the switches, a burst of imagination, a change of gear.
Moon, 66 Questions is released in UK cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema on 24 June.Where to watch