Photo: Andy Hall
Before We Vanish by Jaime Grijalba Gomez Film

The Trip to Greece | Michael Winterbottom

June 1, 2020

The Trip to Greece continues the series’ trend of increasingly mature developments and proves a satisfying end.

The Trip to Greece, purportedly the closing installment of the TV series/film hybrid directed by Michael Winterbottom, is permeated by that sensation of finality. Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan, once again playing deformed and exaggerated versions of themselves, are here in a country that feels pervaded by both history and death. It’s no wonder then that this ends up being the least overtly funny of the Trip films, focusing on grimmer subjects and experiences associated with middle-aged men: failed marriages, the death of parents, rekindling seemingly stagnated relationships. The series has largely been a comedic showcase for the talents of Brydon and Coogan, particularly when it comes to their impersonations of famous people (which are never perfect, and perhaps funnier for it) as well as their unrelenting banter, constructing one of the most stinging portrayals of male ego and the world of low-level stardom. Nevertheless, as the years have progressed, the pair have been upping the dramatic/absurdist stakes. The Trip to Spain ended with Coogan being confronted with ISIS itself, and this latest offering features a Syrian refugee camp as one of its opening locations.

It’s not all gloom and doom though, as the discourse still proves thankfully rich any time the two actors sit down to eat — a particular highlight comes in the form of a long segment in which they exchange impersonations of Dustin Hoffman throughout the ages. In a way, every installment, for those who’ve followed since the original The Trip, feels like revisiting old friends in the complex way of real life rather than the simplicity of the adage. Both emotionally evolve, they experience conflict and animosity, and the prolonged time spent with them invites surprising revelations. In each installment, the pair separate and the film follows each toward either home or elsewhere. These moments often prove the most honest: we get a glimpse of these men outside of interpersonal competition and ego-baiting, a look at their lives with the instinct for performance turned off. In The Trip to Greece, this coda presents a gut punch that closes the whole series in a satisfying way, giving us two unique characters at completely different places in their lives: a man who wants everything but is losing it all, and a man who sees what he has as enough and might still find more.

Published as part of May 2020’s Before We Vanish.