Fish n’ Chips: Film Review

Cockney meets Cyprus in confused drama about making sense of thorny national-identity issues.

Filmmaker Elias Demetriou, himself a citizen of Cyprus, Greece and Great Britain, wants to work through the complicated loyalties his protagonist with a similar heritage confronts.

MONTREAL — A "you can't go home again" melodrama that seems as confused about its identity as its protagonist is, writer/director Elias Demetriou's Fish n' Chips doesn't prepare audiences for the dispiriting turns it will take and can't quite navigate them when they come. Stateside theatrical prospects are dim despite some sympathetic performances.

The film initially appears to be about Karin (Marlene Kaminsky), a middle-aged East German who, after emigrating to London and enduring a string of bad boyfriends, has brought daughter Emma (Anne-Marie O'Sullivan) to live with her and chip shop manager Andy (Marios Ioannou).

But as Andy, a British-born Cypriot, decides to take his pseudo-family on holiday to visit relatives in Cyprus, the movie's focus becomes clear: The filmmaker, who himself has citizenship in Cyprus, Greece and Great Britain, wants to work through the complicated loyalties Andy's heritage entails.

Demetriou's tone is unsteady, though. His film's opening scenes, set in the fry rooms and front stoops of working-class London, are scruffy but lighthearted. Once the tale moves to Cyprus we enter a long confused stretch in which Karin, spacey and reluctant to engage with the conversations around her, seems not to be in the same film as her boyfriend and daughter. Andy's Cypriot sister-in-law Maria (Margarita Zachariou) worsens the problem, overreacting to minor annoyances in a way that only makes sense for someone who has seen the script's final act.

In a subtly endearing performance as Andy, Ioannou maintains his Cockney accent while trying, with a touch of self-delusion, to find his roots. With his brother's help, Andy soon decides to stay in Cyprus and open a beachside fish-and-chips stand -- not understanding that Cypriots at home won't necessarily take to fried cod the way their English cousins do. But Demetriou's pacing stumbles through the startup-to-failure storyline, arriving too quickly at the desperate moment at which Andy and company throw an ill-advised party to jumpstart the business.

Things fall apart, for both the characters and the film, well before Andy's mother wanders away from home in a dementia-fueled quest to tend her vanished garden. The insights Demetriou has to share, about feeling loyal to a country that no longer exists as your parents knew it, suffer under the weight of storytelling flaws, with the movie's sour side easily overshadowing the happy-enough resolution it finally delivers.

Venue: Montreal World Film Festival, Focus on World Cinema
Production Company: Pan Entertainment
Cast: Marios Ioannou, Marlene Kaminsky, Anne-Marie O'Sullivan, Diomedes Koufteros, Alkestis Pavlidou
Director-screenwriter: Elias Demetriou
Producers: Elias Demetriou, Konstadinos Moriatis, Monica Nicolaidou, George Pantzis
Director of photography: Giorgos Giannelis
Production designer: Edouard Georgiou
Music: Christina Georgiou
Costume designer: Notis Panagiotou
Editors: Ionna Spiliopoulou, Elias Demetriou
Sales: Greek Film Centre
No rating, 102 minutes