Intergenerational noncommunication, financial woes and a sweltering summer make for a simmering if unexceptional stew in Argyris Papadimitropoulos and Jan Vogel’s story of Greek turmoil, “Wasted Youth.” Built along concurrent parallels to emphasize the lack of dialogue within Athenian society, the pic’s boundless fascination with prankish teens wears thin, and the drawn-out wait for storylines to intersect fails to deliver sufficient punch. “Wasted Youth” will likely surf along the fest circuit, riding the current of recent Greek film interest, but budding signs of talent from these multihyphenate helmers suggest better things in the future.
A tiny budget — around $274,000 — doesn’t appear to have hampered the production as much as the lack of script has. With only an outline, the duo had the mix of professional and amateur thesps improvise lines in a bid for a natural, presumably youth-oriented feel, and while a number of individual scenes work well, the overall flow and narrative arc are stymied by lack of development and too many filler sequences.
It’s a hot summer morning in Athens, and Vasilis (Ieronimos Kaletsanos) is just getting home from the night shift — only toward the end of the movie do auds learn his line of work. Tired and visibly tense, he climbs into bed but can’t muster the energy to make love to his wife (Maria Skoula); later in the day when he gets up, his 14-year-old daughter (Eva Chalkiadaki) barely acknowledges his presence.
Running concurrently is the story of 16-year-old Harry (Harris Markou), a skater dude who’s slept — not for the first time — at the home of his parents’ friend Mrs. Christina (Themis Bazaka). Though it’s unclear if the two have had sex, there’s definitely a sexual energy played out around the table as the older woman solicitously offers her home, food and attention to the shirtless teen. Harry’s dad (George Kakanis) isn’t happy with the arrangement, angry his son hasn’t bothered to look for a summer job, and furious the teen hasn’t seen his hospitalized mother (Marissa Triantafillidou).
While Harry spends his time skating with his buddies, Vasilis nervously ruminates at home, wanting to join a friend in a new business venture but frightened of the economic downturn. His sense of helplessness makes him seethe with frustration and self-loathing, for which he has no outlet. Meanwhile Harry, with the oblivion of youth, shirks all responsibility.
Despite the helmers’ intention of creating a specifically Greek, or Athens-based, storyline, they fail to do much with the city itself, and there’s little here that couldn’t easily be transplanted to another locale. Lack of dialogue between the generations seems to be a hallmark everywhere, as does, unfortunately, a tendency among thirtysomething filmmakers to present teens as energetic representatives of idealized anarchy. So we get endless scenes of Harry and his posse skateboarding, an activity beginning to feel stereotypical among onscreen teens.
Vasilis is unquestionably the more interesting character, yet he’s also the least developed. Despite having little concrete to work with, Kaletsanos adroitly fleshes out as much as he can, making the character’s inner turmoil palpable. For the most part, Markou is apparently being himself, which he does in a breezy, unself-conscious way — a drunken scene where he joins his pal Tiny (Jason Wastor) at a wedding is well-played if too long — but the persona itself is neither original nor especially interesting.
Lensing is nicely controlled and boasts some handsome framing along with a fine sense of editing. Natural lighting is used to good effect, though sound quality occasionally has an oddly hollow resonance. Music, largely springing from Harry’s iPod, is well integrated and appropriately post-punk.