Xenia (Greece | France | Belgium | 2014)
Directed by Panos H. Koutras

The fantasy elements move uneasily beside the more conventional realistic elements in this uneven hybrid absent-father comedy-drama road-movie based in Crete and Greece. The presence of a gun as a tired plot device sat uneasily with me.

After the death of his mother, Dany, an adorable 16-year-old Albanian boy with a sugar obsession, leaves Crete to seek out his older brother, to tell him their mother has died, and to find their real father. Along the way, his brother tries out for Greek Star, which is exactly what you might think it would be; Dany gets in a fight with some skinhead homophobes and shoots one of them; the brothers run for their lives and squat in an abandoned hotel called Xenia; Dany confronts the rich dude who may or may not be their real father. In between, we’re introduced to a campy nightclub owner, who is probably Dany’s real dad, are treated to some funny and spontaneous dance numbers, as well as charmed, or not, by a couple funny, low-budget special effects sequences involving a giant stuffed bunny and a field of grass that turns into a hairy chest for Dany to rest upon. There are couple brief flirtations with brother-brother incest, for whatever that’s worth.

Director Panos H. Koutras seems to have been inspired principally by the superior and more consistently realized Animals, directed by Marçal Forés, and maybe by Ma Vie en Rose, with a little bit of Donnie Darko. But he falls prey to a very American tendency to use a firearm in a movie as club, glue, cement and spackling so that no one risks nuanced emotional responses, not to mention mystery.

Still, the impulses here seem sincere and Kostas Nikouli as the irrepressible and kinda badass Dany really is hard to stop watching. A lot of it is unbelievable though as opposed to fanciful.

Xenia