A college age daughter returns to Athens to care for her emotionally-distant, now-infirm father in “Moon, 66 Questions,” the latest teaming of writer-director Jacqueline Lentzou with her on-screen alter ego, Sofia Kokkali (“The End of Suffering”).
It’s a self-consciously-filmed soft-spoken drama about family, family responsibilities and family secrets, and truthfully a rather drab affair where the stakes are low and the emotions kept in check for the most part.
Set in the 1990s, so that we can wonder if there’s any autobiography in Lentzou’s script and so she can show off those ugly home video aspect ratios in “home movies” voiced-over to establish Artemis (Kokkali, also seen in “Digger”) has been away, that she’s not close to her father, that he’s gone through something that traumatized him and contributed to a stroke which is what brought her back and yet that doesn’t move her emotionally.
Paris (Lazaros Georgakopoulus) is going to need care and rehab, and that’s largely going to fall on Artemis — getting him about, encouraging him to try to do things for himself, engaging him in conversation and changing his diapers.
It’s the conversation that seems trickiest, but the only person Artemis complains to about her new burden is her mother (Maria Zorba), strangely absent and refusing phone entreaties to come see him and maybe help.
The movie tips the viewer that something’s up, and we spend the last 80 minutes of the film figuring out what that might be as Artemis hangs with family, frolics with old friends and overhears her grandmother and aunts and uncles interrogate home health-care workers, a “Last Supper” lineup of chain-smoking Greeks kvetching about “language barriers” when most of the people they interview are Bulgarian or Romanian.
Artemis voice-over narrates “on today’s date” snippets, “Cleopatra was born….’Catcher in the Rye’ was published” and the like. Periodically, chapters of the story are marked by a Tarot card — “Strength,” “The Magician,” etc. Cryptic? A bit. Self-conscious? Annoyingly so.
“Moon” doesn’t necessarily make sense, even if the narrative is perfectly easy to follow and just as easy to “decode,” in terms of guessing “the secret.”
Kokkali is front and center throughout, and doesn’t give us a whole lot to latch onto in her characterization. Artemis doesn’t act like a martyr, even if she seems to struggle with what she’s supposed to do to care for this man she was never all that close to.
A couple of scenes interrupt the care-giving and coeds exercising in the pool, cutting up as they act out scenes from movies for Charades or play ping-pong. Artemis gets into her father’s ancient Jeep Grand Cherokee, and after some driving difficulties, rams it into the apartment garage’s wall — hard.
It’s meant to be a cathartic moment of discovery, but all I could think was “DAMN, they didn’t fake that. How’d they get her to agree to do her own stunt in a no-airbag SUV?”
The film handles accounts of the routine in the father and daughter’s days — he’s very dependent, yet she has time for all this other stuff outside the apartment — in unconventional, non-linear ways. Time passes, nurses are questioned, meals are consumed and a not-so-big-secret is revealed that might bring father and daughter closer.
This story may be more personal to Lentzou than I’ve heard — and really, that doesn’t matter as much as what’s actually on the screen. But if so, my heart goes out to her for how dull this stretch of time was in her or her character’s life, even as my teeth grate at her need to recreate that tedium for moviegoers.
“66 Questions?” If you say so.
Cast: Sofia Kokkali, Lazaros Georgakopoulos and Maria Zorba
Credits: Scripted and directed by Jacqueline Lentzou. A Film Movement release.
Running time: 1:48