The story of Shakespeare’s star-cross’d lovers is again updated to a contempo setting in the Greek drama “Nobody,” which spices up the world’s most famous tragic romance with some local Homer and fast cars. Result, from helmer Christos Nikoleris and the team behind the hit Greek smallscreen series “Wild Kids,” is effective for the most part, and the fact that Romeo and Juliet have become teens from immigrant families in modern-day Greece adds a topical (if somewhat problematic) edge to an otherwise familiar story. Pic will open theatrically in early 2011, while fests should show some mannerly devotion.
Julia (Georgina Liossi) is the daughter of Muslim immigrants from Albania who have settled in Athens. In an unlit staircase of the family’s apartment building, the pretty, somewhat naive girl has a run-in with a hunky pizza delivery boy (Antinoos Albanis).
In the first of several nods to “The Odyssey,” the youngster with the two-day stubble tells Julia his name is Nobody, and after they meet again at a party, things quickly lead to the obligatory balcony scene, during which a car alarm adds a welcome counterpoint and a contempo touch.
Auds will at this point already be aware that Nobody is part of a gang of Russian immigrant kids who are into illegal car racing — staged with expert use of offscreen space — and that their main opponent is a rival posse of Albanians led by the reckless Tybalt (Giorgos Papageorgiou), who happens to be Julia’s brother.
Screenwriter Panayotos Iosifelis, another “Wild Kids” alumnus, paints Julia and Nobody as the ultimate wild kids, not only madly and sincerely in love but also clearly living in constant danger because of their completely incompatible backgrounds. The film convincingly suggests that teens thrive on action and danger, particularly in a sequence that cuts between the couple’s first love scene and an illegal car race involving the two rival gangs.
The combination of Iosifelis’ screenplay and Lambis Haralambidis’ expert cutting allows the situation to spin quickly and believably out of control, though the story is so closely modeled on Shakespeare’s that most of the suspense has to come from execution rather than plot.
One of the pic’s few missteps is the fact that Nobody’s direct family is never seen (his widowed mother has gone back to Russia). This unduly highlights Julia’s Muslim family, which, having been composed of three-quarters of the Capulets’ DNA, is depicted as violent and unforgiving, which will not help the standing of Albanian and Muslim immigrants in Greece one bit.
The central romance between heartthrob Albanis (also from “Wild Kids”) and petite but fiery newcomer Liossi is the film’s biggest asset, and Nikoleris milks it for all it’s worth. Papageorgiou, as Tybalt, has a tendency to overact, but his Russian counterpart, Nikolas Papagiannis as Merkut, is both subtle and menacing. Papagiannis gets one of the most impressive scenes in the pic when, on his deathbed, he asks Nobody whether he should report to heaven as a Russian or a Greek, to which his friend replies, “Say you’re Nobody,” neatly underlining the central idea that background doesn’t define personality.
Technically, pic looks slick. Despite its crew’s mostly smallscreen experience, “Nobody” has a bigscreen feel throughout, and d.p. Dimitris Stambolis’ slightly washed-out widescreen images lend an appropriately gritty edge. Score by the Prefabricated Quartet is used sparingly but effectively.