You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Worlds Apart’

Three linked tales set amid the cataclysm of Greece tell the story of a world — maybe our world — coming apart.

Christopher Papakatiatis, Andrea Osvart, J.K. Simmons, Maria Kavogianni, Minas Chatzisavvas, Tawfeek Barhom, Niki Vakali.
Release Date:
Jan 13, 2017

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3909336/

It’s been shown, on occasion, that audiences will turn out to see a movie about the post-9/11 world: a serious and inquiring drama of war, terrorism, and global culture clash. But even in an era as fraught with instability as this one, will people show up to see a movie that mirrors their economic anxieties? With rare exceptions (like “Up in the Air,” an early Hollywood responder to the 2008 meltdown that was followed by…not very much), the answer is no. That nerve is simply too raw.

Yet I can’t help but believe that a great wrenching drama that brilliantly channeled the collapse of the middle class would have the potential to strike a powerful chord with a mass audience. “Worlds Apart,” a small-scale drama from Greece, is like the baby-steps version of that movie. It interweaves three stories (sort of like “Babel,” though all set in one place — in this case, Athens), and it takes in the crisis of Middle Eastern refugees, but the film is most telling when it uses the disaster of Greece’s economic collapse to show us what’s really happening to people’s lives in one particularly messed-up region of the world — a region that may offer a glimpse of what’s going to start happening elsewhere.

The Greek crisis, as portrayed in “Worlds Apart,” is a perfect storm of angst and turmoil: an explosion of immigration issues like the ones bedeviling Germany, laid on top of financial meltdown, all feeding the fever of civil war. At first, the film seems like the mildest sort of message-movie fairy tale, as it zeroes in on the East-meets-West, Romeo-and-Juliet love story of Daphne (Niki Vakali), a young Greek woman, and Farris (Tawfeek Barhom), the Syrian refugee who rescues her from an assault, then notices her on a bus and rushes to befriend her. Before long, they’re flirting and holding hands and enjoying secret meetings in an abandoned airport, where Farris (along with other Syrians) has found a makeshift home.

It’s a puppy-love romance, and therefore, though sweet and convincing, it doesn’t transcend the didactic element that always creeps into these movies — that feeling of “Look! Doesn’t love make our prejudices seem petty!” What grounds the segment is the rage of Daphne’s father, Antonis (Minas Chatzisavvas), a shopkeeper who has lost his business and blames what he sees as a tidal wave of crime caused by impoverished refugees. With nothing else to do, and no outlet for his resentment, he becomes the underground bully for a violent anti-immigrant group, smashing limbs to teach lessons. And then, during a raid at the airport, he sees Daphne and her boyfriend…

At that point, the writer-director, Christopher Papakaliatis, cuts away. He has planted a seed, however, and will circle back to it. “Worlds Apart” comes on like a trio of discrete stories, but as the connections among them are revealed, each one grows a little richer. The most resonant is the second segment, which stars Papakaliatis himself as a beleaguered husband and father named Giorgos who pops anti-depressants to cope with a fraying marriage and with a corporate-management job that involves standing by as the jobs around him get axed. Watching the tears and desperation of his laid-off co-workers, which veer at one point into suicide, it’s clear that their devastation derives from their fear that they’ve slipped through the cracks — that there’s no more employment out there, just oblivion.

Giorgos, on the other hand, is hanging on. But then he falls into a coldly erotic affair with Elise (Andrea Osvart), the laser-like, amoral Swedish consultant who’s in charge of the downsizing. It’s like “Up in the Air: The Dark Side,” and Papakaliatis, as an actor, puts us in touch with the tug-of-war that’s going on inside Giorgos. Can he save his own hide and liberate himself too?

“Worlds Apart” lands in an episode that feels like dessert. It stars J.K. Simmons, who plays Sebastian, a German lonelyheart with a twinkle in his eye. Surprisingly, Simmons’ attempt at a German accent is not very good, but he looks cuddlier in a beard, and he gives an expert, soft-shoe performance that rescues what might have been a cloying encounter. Sebastian meets Maria (Maria Kavoyianni), an unhappy housewife whose family has run out of money; their courtship consists of meeting, every Friday afternoon, at the supermarket, where Sebastian buys her fruits and vegetables — a romantic gesture that might seem preposterous if it weren’t so infectiously…dystopian. These two lost souls find a communion, in an episode that suggests “Marty” as staged by late-period Fellini. And then we learn who Maria really is.

As a cinematic import, it’s doubtful that “Worlds Apart” will gain much traction. It isn’t bad, but it’s kind of a trifle. Though it treats its themes with reasonable honesty, it can’t help but come off as a bit diagrammed. Yet the movie is onto something: what happens to a society when “ordinary” life begins to get stripped away. It’s a theme you can bet we’ll be seeing a lot more of.

Film Review: 'Worlds Apart'

Reviewed at Dolby 24, January 5, 2017. MPAA Rating: Not rated. Running time: 115 MIN.

Production: A Cinema Libre Studios release of a Plus Productions prod. Producers: Kostas Sousoulas, Christopher Papakaliatis, Chris Papavasiliou, Dorothea Paschalidou. Executive producer: Lydia Michail.

Crew: Director, screenplay: Christopher Papakaliatis. Camera (color, widescreen): Yannis Drakoularakos. Editor: Stella Filippoulou.

With: Christopher Papakatiatis, Andrea Osvart, J.K. Simmons, Maria Kavogianni, Minas Chatzisavvas, Tawfeek Barhom, Niki Vakali.

More Film

  • oscar nominee predictions 2019

    'Roma,' 'A Star Is Born' Poised to Lead Oscar Nominations

    Things got ugly this awards season, enough to give you pause about what might still lie ahead once Oscar nominations are announced next week. “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride,” etc. But as the phase one dust finally begins to settle, what does the landscape look like? On the heels of [...]

  • Oscars Predictions 2018 Illustration

    Academy Awards: Final Oscar Predictions in All Categories

    Nominations for the 91st Academy Awards will be announced on Tuesday, Jan. 22. Below are In Contention’s final predictions in all 24 categories. Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born” and Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” lead the way with 10 expected nominations apiece, while we forecast eight for Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favourite” and seven each for Damien [...]

  • Zach Barack Spider-Man

    Transgender Actor Zach Barack Joins Sony's 'Spider-Man: Far From Home'

    Newcomer and transgender actor Zach Barack appears in a ground-breaking supporting role in Sony/Marvel’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” sources confirm to Variety. Barack can be seen in the new trailer, which was released on Tuesday. More Reviews TV Review: 'Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes' Album Review: Sharon Van Etten’s ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ [...]

  • A Quiet Place Roma Jack Ryan

    'A Quiet Place,' 'Roma,' 'Jack Ryan' Among Golden Reel Nominees for Sound Editing

    The Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) announced nominations for its 66th annual Golden Reel Awards Friday. On the film side, “First Man,” Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” “A Quiet Place” and “Roma” led the way with three nominations each. Musical dramas “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “A Star Is Born” received two, as did “The Favourite.” More Reviews [...]

  • Nick Redman

    Nick Redman, Documentary Filmmaker and Soundtrack Producer, Dies at 63

    Nick Redman, Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker, award-winning soundtrack producer and co-founder of the Twilight Time video label, died Thursday afternoon, Jan. 17, at a Santa Monica Hospital, after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 63. He was nominated for an Academy Award as producer of the 1996 documentary “The Wild Bunch: An Album in Montage,” [...]

  • Nicky Jam Bad Boys

    Reggaeton Star Nicky Jam Joins 'Bad Boys' Sequel (EXCLUSIVE)

    Reggaeton sensation Nicky Jam is set to join the cast of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s upcoming “Bad Boys” sequel, “Bad Boys for Life.” Jam, who will play one of the villains in the Sony pic, joins series newcomers Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Jacob Scipio, DJ Khaled, and Paola Nuñez. Joe Pantoliano will return [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content