Arcadia Lost -- Film Review

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Self-conscious silliness mars this turn in the director's chair by well-known Hollywood cinematographer Phedon Papamichael. The Greek-born cameraman returns to his native country to helm an English-language film that aims for metaphysical significance but winds up only with strained seriousness. Since theatrical pick-ups are unlikely, the film will have to content itself with festival slots.

The film actually begins with promise. A couple has rushed into second marriage for both parties without apparently considering what their teenage youngsters think about bringing strangers into the family.

Everyone is on holiday in Greece. But is this supposed to be the honeymoon and if so, why on earth would they drag teenagers along? Anyway the newlywed wife's somewhat sophisticated daughter Charlotte (Haley Bennett) and groom's somewhat immature son Sye (Carter Jenkins) are bored out of their minds. So they get up to mischief -- or at least Charlotte does -- and on each other's nerves.

Then the film takes a major U-turn. Or, to be accurate, it drives off a cliff. Okay, let's plant a spoiler alert here. Read no further if you don't want to know the film's only surprise.

During an unconvincing fight in a rental car that distracts the driver, the family of four plunges off a cliff into the sea. The two youngsters "wake up" on the beach and cannot find their parents. What they do find is a crazy loon played by Nick Nolte -- of course, it's Nick Nolte -- who spouts nonsense such as "When you're ready, you'll know the way" and "We've never met but we'll never part."

Can there possibly be any shock about what has happened here?

Shock or no shock, the teen characters meander through a mostly rural and desolate landscape, as they grow to appreciate each other. Meanwhile, mildly pixilated characters gaze absently at them and sometimes make enigmatic remarks.

This journey does give Papamichael, who acts as his own cameraman, the opportunity to present a Greek landscape far off the tourist trail -- of a vacant shoreline dominated by the rusted hulk of a ship, ancient ruins partially submerged in the sea, small villages seemingly unchanged by time and vast stretches of emptiness.

Ultimately, the film, written by David Anniello, feels more like a live-action short that has been severely padded than a feature film.

Venue: Los Angeles Greek Film Festival
Production companies: Chamber Productions and Merchant Films presents an Extraordinary Renditions production
Cast: Haley Bennett, Carter Jenkins, Nick Nolte, Dato Bakhtadze, Lachlan Buchanan, Renos Haralambidis
Director/director of photography: Paedon Papamichael
Screenwriter: David Ariniello
Producer: Kelly Thomas
Executive producers: Scott Chambers, Dan Giustina
Production designer: Kenny Maclellan
Music: Michael Brook
Costume designer: Ioanna Timotheadou
Editor: Phillip Harrison
No rating, 95 minutes
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