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Xenia
IMDB Rating: 6.8/10 from votes
Release: 18 June 2014 (France) /

Xenia

Genre: Drama
Director: Panos H. Koutras,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: Strangers in their own birthplace, 16-year-old Danny and 18-year-old Odysseus cross the entire country in search of their Greek father, after their Albanian mother passes away. Determined to force him to acknowledge paternity, little do they know that the road to the much-coveted Greek citizenship is paved with ghosts from the past, adult savagery and a dream that needs to come true, no matter what. Reaching the end of this initiatory journey they eventually come of age even if Greece refuses to follow. Written by Xenia

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Critic Reviews


In the past years, whenever I see a Greek film, I brace myself for depictions of social degradation and individual misery, which is sometimes well established and played out, and sometimes heavy-handed and riddled with clichés. 'Xenia' is the first one which I believe to manage a balance between its story, social themes, and symbolism - but at times it also feels quite uneven. While it does come quite close to being one of the most remarkable European films of late, some scenes are written better than others, which could have used less dialog or more cuts.

Dany, a gay adolescent with bleached hair, playful attitude and increasingly obvious psychological problems, makes his way from Crete to Athens to inform his brother Ody, who works in a fast food place and appears more grounded, of the death of their mother. Since she was Albanian, they decide to locate their father who left them soon after Dany's birth - because once they turn 18 they are subject to deportation if they cannot prove Greek relatives. They manage to find an old friend of their mother who helps them with their search. But Dany's tendency to run into trouble soon makes things more complicated.

The nice thing about 'Xenia' is that its characters are deeply symbolic, but so complicated that their various clichés appear realistic. The names Dany (for Daniel) and Ody (for Odysseus) are already charged, both of them mythological figures who have to overcome extreme challenges. Dany isn't just very obviously gay and troubled, but has beautifully displayed visions which make it difficult to tell where the dream ends and reality begins. Ody isn't just the caring elder brother, but has inherited singing talent from his mother and strives to show it. The various secondary characters are likewise both stereotypical and complicated, as the flamboyant gay club manager with a genuine motherly affection for migrants, or the family-deserting father who turns right-wing politician.

These are spiked with scenes of social conflict and symbolic realism, all of which result in a very original style reminiscent of Almodovar, as exemplified by cameos and songs of 60's Italian sensation Patty Pravo. However, symbolism is Xenia's biggest charm. For instance, the title refers to an abandoned hotel in which the brothers take temporary refuge - the irony being that 'xenia' means 'hospitality', thus the ruin becomes a metaphor for present Greece itself. If you are able to catch all these allusions and do not mind that the story is somewhat lost, you're in for a real treat with this one. If, however, you like linear storytelling and character development, there's a good chance you will loathe this.

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