'Worlds Apart': Film Review
J.K. Simmons is featured in this Athens-set triptych depicting romantic relationships between Greeks and foreigners.
Greece’s political and socio-economic woes form the backdrop of writer/director Christopher Papakaliatis’ drama depicting three interwoven love stories between Greek and foreign characters. Benefiting greatly from the presence of Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons in a key role, Worlds Apart doesn’t manage to transcend the forced and familiar-feeling aspects of its multipart narrative, but it does offer an evocative portrait of its troubled milieu, and one of its segments, at least, has genuine emotional resonance.
All three stories are set in an Athens beset by widespread poverty and violent tensions between the native and immigrant populations. The first and most formulaic story concerns Daphne (Niki Vakali), a young Greek woman, and Farris (Tawfeek Barhom), a Syrian refugee who comes to her aid when she is attacked by several men. She doesn’t get the chance to express her gratitude until he spots her on a bus and returns her broken phone. The two begin a romance, meeting secretly in such locations as the abandoned airport in which Farris has made a temporary home. But their relationship becomes threatened by the increasing tensions permeating the city, with Daphne’s father ((Minas Chatzisavvas), unbeknownst to her, a key figure in a violent anti-immigrant group.
The second segment depicts the burgeoning relationship between Giorgios (director/screenwriter Papakaliatis), a sales manager for a struggling business, and Elise (Andera Osvart), a Swedish efficiency expert who, he learns only after their one-night stand, has been hired to reduce his company’s payroll. Their secret affair becomes further complicated when Giorgios asks her to spare his desperate best friend from being axed, with tragic consequences ensuing.
The third and most effective story involves the unlikely romance between two sixty-somethings who first meet outside a supermarket. They are Maria (Maria Kavoyianni), married and in desperate financial straits, and Sebastian (Simmons), a retired German professor who has recently moved to the country and becomes immediately smitten with her. She’s deeply reluctant to reciprocate his feelings, and their communication is hampered by language barriers, but his sweet sincerity ultimately wins her over.
It isn’t hard to guess that by the film’s end, connections will have been made between the three stories, and in this case, not very subtly. Indeed, very little of the proceedings are subtle, with the writer/director so intent on hammering home his thematic points that the situations and characters seem contrived merely to underline them. This is particularly true of the melodramatic first segment, with its Romeo and Juliet-inspired teenage love story culminating in all-too-predictable fashion.
While all of the performances are reasonably effective (Simmons’ accent does take some getting used to, however), the standout is Kavogianni as the desperately unhappy housewife who becomes reawakened to the possibility of lover. Her endlessly soulful eyes well justify Simmons’ character gushing, “I don’t understand a word, but I love your expressions.”
Distributor: Cinema Libre Studios
Production company: Plus Productions
Cast: J.K. Simmons, Christopher Papakaliatis, Andrea Osvart, Maria Kavogianni, Minas Chatzisavvas, Tawfeek Barhom, Niki Vakali
Director-screenwriter: Christopher Papakaliatis
Producers: Kostas Sousoulas, Christopher Papakaliatis, Chris Papavasiliou, Dorothea Paschalidou
Executive producer: Lydia Michail
Director of photography: Yannis Drakoularakos
Production designer: Giorgos Georgiou
Editor: Stella Filippopoulou
Costume designer: Maria Kontodima
Composer: Kostas Christides
Casting: Christina Akzoti, Alex Kelly
Not rated, 115 minutes