An exploration of how lives torn apart during the Greek junta period still seek closure years later, “A Song Is Not Enough” aims high but falls short of its target. First feature by writer-director Elisavet Hronopoulou, who made a video docu, “Political Confinement in 20th Century Greece” three years ago, needs tightening by some 20 minutes to bring the central relationship into clearer focus. Amid the dramatic loose ends, there’s some good stuff here, and fine perfs, but pic takes too much for granted to work well with offshore auds.
Though it’s never directly explained — date captions should be added for non-Greek viewers — film’s two timeframes are the early ’70s, during the middle of right-wing military rule, and the early ’90s. Movie swings back and forth between the two periods, with B&W for the earlier material. Given the added problem of some characters not being immediately named or their relationships stated, initial reels are more than a tad confusing.
Main character in the ’90s strand is Olga (actress-singer Fotini Papadodima), a 28-year-old documaker working on a project about a former political prisoner. Her father, Manolis (Babis Yotopoulos), is a drunk, and lives at home with her, her partner and young child.
With no initial explanation, pic flashes back in monochrome to show an experimental theater troupe rehearsing a production. Femme star is Irini Halkiadaki (Gogo Brebou), who has a strong-minded 8-year-old daughter, Olga (Alexandra Karoni, in one of pic’s best performances), and an ex, Manolis (actor-songwriter Yannis Kokiasmenos), who pays her child-support and still comes ’round for drunken sex. Young Olga can’t stand him.
When Irini is imprisoned by the political police, Olga ends up staying at home with Manolis, and the kid starts to take a liking to him. Manolis, however, starts an affair with Irini’s best friend, Vasia (Anna Koutsaftiki), who then takes over Irini’s role in the theater production. When Irini is released (two years later, though again this isn’t stated on screen), Olga tells her mom she wants to live with her father.
Story is gradually resolved through the ’90s strand, set during the 24 hours prior to a new play in which the now middle-aged, diva-esque Irini (also Brebou) is starring. The big question is whether Olga, who’s now the same age her mom was when she was imprisoned, will attend the first night to patch things up.
Once the viewer sorts out what’s going on, and who’s who, opening reels sketch an interesting array of characters, with Brebou and Kokiasmenos showing good chemistry as the parents, and young Karoni providing strong thesping cement between the two. Though some characters remain underdeveloped, especially Vasia and Manolis’ father, these B&W scenes are far more involving than the color ’90s ones.
However, pic starts to lose its way once Irini is imprisoned. Lengthy jail scenes shift the focus too far away from the movie’s core. Final act, after her release, leads to an over-pat conclusion.
Performances by the large number of supporting thesps are fine down the line. The melancholy, drone-like score (by Kokiasmenos and Manolis Angelakis) is distinctive; less happy is the corny use of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony when Irini is released from stir.