Moon, 66 Questions, the debut feature from Greek director Jacqueline Lentzou, opens with a series of grainy home video clips with dates from roughly 25 years ago imprinted in the top left corner. In voiceover, a young woman named Artemis (Sofia Kokkali) tells a stranger that she is returning home to care for her estranged father Paris (Lazaros Georgakopoulos), who is rendered nearly immobile by multiple sclerosis. Kokkali and Lentzou previously collaborated on the latter’s short film Hector Malot: The Last Day of the Year, which won the 2018 LeicaCine Discovery Award at Cannes, and their rapport is evident. Lentzou doesn’t stray far from Kokkali’s face as she learns the extent of her father’s illness and the full weight of her responsibility, which has been foisted on her by an absent mother and a bevy of self-absorbed extended relatives. Her few moments to herself are punctuated with seemingly involuntary outbursts of physicality — jerkily dancing in the garage, a heated game of ping-pong — as though waving a middle finger to her father’s own physical limitations, or daring her body to betray itself. In one heartbreaking scene, she acts out a still-raw childhood memory, playing both her father and a younger version of herself pleading to go on a school trip. She breaks down sobbing at the mere memory of her father’s cruel response, and we see how close to the surface these scars are, how grueling it must be to care for the person who has caused so much unresolved pain. Georgakopoulos, for his part, plays Paris with both hostility and helplessness. A former basketball player, clearly not used to asking for help, he now cannot even walk without assistance, and we see the toll it takes on his pride. Even as he relies on Artemis for almost every basic need, the gulf between father and daughter shows no sign of abating.
Amidst this charged environment, which takes place almost entirely in Paris’s large, well-appointed house in the countryside, hovers the duo’s extended family as they interview potential live-in nurses. Each meeting is an almost farcical tableau of vanity and carelessness, with the family exhibiting more concern for gossipy neighbors than the health crisis at hand. There’s no reason this massive responsibility should lie so heavily on Artemis, yet there’s also little urgency in rectifying the situation — an indication of the family’s general carefree attitude, or Paris’s less-than-stellar standing among his siblings. Moon, 66 Questions is a self-described “film about flow, movement and love (and lack of them),” and its four parts are introduced through various tarot cards. True to her promise, Lentzou has crafted a film that channels the ebbs and tides of physical movement and emotional trauma, even eschewing a traditional score in order to let her two leads truly carry the weight of this family drama. And so, when a family secret is revealed (though not necessarily to the audience) Artemis and Paris are finally able to find a moment of communion that hints not so much at reconciliation, but — finally — recognition.
Published as part of Berlin Film Festival 2021 — Dispatch 2.