But not describing the central trauma in Hard Goodbyes is a little like trying to talk about Gone With the Wind without mentioning the Civil War. So anyone who would rather not know exactly what this film is about, you are advised to exit this review promptly.
Those made of hardier stuff will perhaps discern from the film's unsubtle title that it is about the effect that the sudden death of his father has on 10-year-old Elias (Yorgos Karayannis). In the summer of 1969, as America prepares to land a man on the moon, Elias' fun-loving but financially struggling father, Christos (Stelios Mainas), dies in a car accident. The loss leaves his already morose and dysfunctional wife (Ioanna Tsirigouli), older son Aris (Hristos Bouyotas) and Elias reeling.
Rather than confront this tragedy, Elias develops an elaborate coping strategy centered on denial.
Elias' father promised him he would return home from his business trip in time for the walk on the moon, and Elias ticks off the days until the moon landing. If something as inconceivable and fantastic as a man walking on the moon can occur, his young mind seems to reason, why can't his father come back to him?
But despite such poignant subject matter, Hard Goodbyes makes for surprisingly bland drama. Much of the action unfolds in the family's dark, cavelike Athens apartment, giving the proceedings an unpleasantly claustrophobic, emotionally airless quality. Beyond its accurate rendition of how children experiencing trauma can retreat into a protective shell of their own creation, there is not a lot on Hard Goodbyes' mind.
Hard Goodbyes: My Father opens Feb. 13 at Lefont Garden Hills Cinema, 2835 Peachtree Road.
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