Hard Goodbyes: My Father

A richly etched portrait of a boy confronted with the loss of his father, writer-director Penny Panayotopoulou’s award-winning feature debut is one of the loveliest coming-of-age stories in years. It’s May 1969, and ten-year-old Elias (Yorgos Karayannis) is excited about the imminent moon landing, which he intends to watch with his dad on television. Suddenly, out of nowhere, his father is killed in a road accident. While Elias’ grieving mother and uncle struggle to move forward after the tragedy, the precocious lad stubbornly (and literally) clings to the belief that his father is simply away on one of his frequent business trips. His denial is profound: Elias invents stories at school (even though his classmates know the truth), dresses up in his dad’s clothes and writes elaborate counterfeit letters from his father to his grandmother. Although this is primarily Elias’ tale, he doesn’t monopolise it; indeed, one of the film’s many pleasures is Panayotopoulou’s deft use of the terrific ensemble cast. A marvellously mature and humane film, Hard Goodbyes salutes the resiliency of a family shaken to its rootsoand the brave character of a remarkable boy.
(2002. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby stereo SR. 108 mins.)

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