EUFF13 Review: Dinner with My Sisters (2011)
If you’re a big fan of having your movies explained to you very, very carefully, be sure to check out the North American debut of Michael Hapeshis’ 2011 film, Dinner with My Sisters. Set in Cyprus, a land filled with sunshine and expository dialogue, this movie follows Dr. Michael Kolovos (Andreas Karras) as he returns home after a 30 year absence. His reunion with his sisters is tempered by their coldness, which is made worse when they clash over the sale of their father’s home. He can’t believe that stern matron Maria (Popi Avraam), angsty prostitute Olga (Nadia Charalabous), and semi-clothed but mostly ignored Helen (Julietta Michael) would want to sell the house that their father designed and built before his death. He begins asking questions about his father’s death and brings to light family secrets that his sisters have spent years hiding.
Fortunately, all it takes to uncover these family secrets is to ask the same question twice in a row, a technique so effective that Michael does not bother with too much else with his screen time, except smoking and staring ruefully into the distance. Fear not, that’s all well-documented too, as are his flashbacks and dreams. When the film isn’t occupied with these concerns, it can be found either attempting to hide the fact that every shot lasts way too long with needless camera movement, or attempting to establish mood and setting by lingering endlessly on picturesque details. All of this leaves very little time for you to get to know the characters through dialogue and interaction, so Hapeshis saves you the effort by having characters constantly explain their feelings and motivations. What a clever time-saving device!
With the movie’s overall tone, Hapeshis seems to be going for the look and feel of a BBC production based on a piece of literary fiction, the only part of which he does justice to is how incredibly un-fun those are to watch. He really nails the humorless, self-importance of those productions. Like spot-on. Fortunately, he can only keep this up for about 50 of the 84 minutes, after which the movie finally–mercifully–descends into being genuinely terrible. Perhaps it didn’t actually get worse and 50 minutes is all that one can take of stagey direction, wooden acting, and cliché-riddled writing before your critical faculties just collapse and it all becomes hilarious, but I know I found the last third of the movie quite funny. It features one of the least convincing fight scenes I have ever watched and some of the worst dialogue I’ve heard in a long time. Unfortunately, as an overall product, it’s not bad enough to recommend on those grounds either.
Dinner with My Sisters screens on Friday, November 15, 2013 at 6:30 PM. To reserve your space for this free screening, visit the European Union Film Festival Toronto website.