Adapted from Nicholas Gage’s best-selling book about his search for the truth about his mother, who was executed by the communists in Greece in the late 1940s, pic has the most noble of intentions, but comes off as flat, tedious and crudely biased.
Screenplay cuts back and forth between events separated by 30 years. The Gage figure (John Malkovich) is assigned to the New York Times Athens bureau, a base from which he can investigate the events surrounding his mother’s death during the civil war. Eleni, Nick’s mother (Kate Nelligan), was a peasant woman in the tiny village of Lia. Portrayed as apolitical, she was forced from her home when the communists occupied the area in the fractious period following World War II, then courageously suffered countless other indignities until being convicted as a traitor in a mock trial.
The scenes involving Malkovich’s extended search for the evil judge prove more successful than the period stuff, and the climactic scene of their confrontation is undeniably tense, by far the best in the film. It comes as much too little, too late.
Nelligan, Malkovich and Linda Hunt, superior performers all, have strong grips on their characters. Tech credits are fine, with the impoverished Greek village having been suitably recreated in Spain.