Hard Goodbyes: My Father

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 01/10/04 11:50:35

"Guaranteed to polarize an audience."
3 stars (Average)

When I first saw What Dreams May Come a few years back, it floored me. One scene in particular had me tearing up like a total sop, but when I later talked of the film to others, those few that liked it had no reaction at all to the scene that got me, and those that hated the film (the majority) found nothing about it to like. So why was I sitting in the theater soaking up the eye dribble? Maybe something in my life related. Maybe it just got me on a weird day. Maybe the filmmaker and myself share a common outlook on love. I dunno. And I don't really care to know, for that's one of the beautiful things about cinema - it hits everyone differently. Hard Goodbyes: My Father is a film that didn't touch any of my nerves in the slightest way, yet others proclaim it to be the be all and end all of filmmaking. I can see both points of view as valid, but then, I didn't fork out ten bucks for a ticket.

Elias (Yorgos Karayannis) is a little kid with a deep love for his dad (Stelios Mainas). His mother (Ioanna Tsirigouli) isn't so infatuated with the guy, since he's rarely home and makes next to nothing at his job, which seems to be best described as 'mystery entrepreneur'.

Elias' dad drives around selling things, returns hom for a few days and disappears when things get too staid. But in the days he's home, he spends hours regaling Elias with stories, playing games, and getting lost in their own imaginations. For the two of them, nothing is more important in the world than the oncoming trip to the moon (oh yeah, this all takes place in 1969). Dad tells Elias that, though he has to leave again, he'll be back in time to watch man walk on the moon; a promise made tough to fulfil when he dies in a car wreck.

The family is devastated, but not Elias - he's convinced that his father isn't dead, he's simply on holidays, and he'll be back for the moon landing. Before long, Elias' self delusion runs so rampant that he spends his days on the roof, dressed in his father's clothes, pretending he's working in his father's TV store. he even writes letters to his grandmother in his father's name, telling her of the wonderful time the family is having on an island somewhere.

But as heartfelt as all this is, Elias is a nutjob. And that's basically where Hard Goodbyes and myself parted ways. Little Yorgos Karayannis certainly immerses himself in the role of Elias, a quality worth applauding being as the kid is barely ten-years-old, but the director is so intensely relating to his plight (an end credit says the words "to my parents who taught me everything... except how to say goodbye") that if you're not on the exact same wavelength as the two of them, you're likely to be left behind on the ride.

Karayannis comes across initially as wonderful, but before long he grates, especially as he turns over his mother's kitchen in a brattish fit of anger. I wanted to kick this kid's ass six ways from Sunday, and even as the final act comes to a close, the desire to clip him around the ear remained with me. I can see where people would gather around this film in praise, but for me that annoyance remained to the end, to the point where I didn't care about the characters, rather I just wanted that kid to quit making his mother's life miserable. And I'm sure that wasn't what I was supposed to be feeling.

Hard Goodbyes: My Father isn't a bad film by any stretch. As a Greek period piece (how many of those do we see?) it certainly maintains interest, and it's well put together, but I'd be more interested in seeing what this director can do when she isn't immersed in the story up to her neck.

Sipapu Films is taking Hard Goodbyes: My Father around North America, city to city, one screen at a time, trying to spread the good word of mouth, and that's a tough job by anyone's standards. So when you see it come through your way, do some hardworking indie film distributors a favor and give it a try. It might just touch you in the way it has touched others and end up being money well spent, and at the very least it'lll be a cultural experience the likes of which you don't usually get to enjoy at your suburban Multiplex. For more information, visit

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