Green Sea (Πράσινη θάλασσα) (2021)

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What are the chances that two of the four films I have watched so far as part of the Sydney Film Festival have been Greek films about people with amnesia? Where Christos Nikou’s Apples (2020) used it as a metaphor, Angeliki Antoniou has a more prosaic approach.

Anna (Angeliki Papoulia who was unforgettable in Dogtooth (2009)) wanders into the life of café owner Roula (Yannis Tsortekis) looking for work as a cook. He lives in a caravan behind his charmingly run-down sea-side café which is frequented daily by a group of local men who bring their own lunches, we assume because there has been no one to cook any food. Anna barely speaks and, after being ordered by Roula to “fry things” as that’s all his clientele want, she begins to cook delicious meals from scratch.

Before long, a clear theme emerges; we find out that Anna has amnesia, that Roula can’t let go of a trauma from his past, and that each meal Anna cooks evokes nostalgic memories in those who eat it. Food seems to be an element that brings people together and slowly brings Anna back to herself. Roula, who we never see eating the food, doesn’t seem to want transformation and he is an odd mix of kindness and gruff meanness. Whereas we get a sense of who Anna is, what brought her to this point in her life and how she has changed, Roula’s character is less well defined, his actions more two-dimensional. He is a catalyst, although a rather sweet ending gives us a sense of a narrative arc for him.

It’s a slow-moving story and there is some satisfaction in that as we feel immersed in small-town Greek café culture and the lives of the people who pass through the door. Of note is the elderly artist Kyriakos (Tasos Palatzidis) who offers to paint a mural of ‘the green sea’ and stays to avoid the depressing isolation of an aged care home. The green sea of the title is a thread that has an overt meaning – it’s the name of a novel that Roula is reading – and there is some sense of a deeper meaning, although what that was eluded me. Is the green sea what connects us or what separates us? It feels more enigmatic than Apples and, subsequently, less satisfying but it gave me a hankering for good Greek food.

Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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