O Brother, Where Art Thou? "Black stone" review

English Daily #2
Black Stone (2022) / International Competition
Spiros Jacovides
13-7 17:30 Moscow Cinema Blue Hall

Dedicated to his recently deceased mother, Spiros Jacovides’ debut feature starts as a comedic mockumentary, but gradually evolves into a pathos-laden drama about the strained relationship between a mother and her sons. One of them is the wheelchair-bound Lefteris (Julio George Katsis), who quietly rebels against his overbearing mother Haroula (an especially brilliant Eleni Kokkidou). His younger brother Panos Dologlou (Achilleas Chariskos) is a civil servant who has seemingly vanished in the last couple of days. Enter a camera team that knocks on Haroula’s door to investigate the disappearance of Panos, which may or may not be tied to some sort of government fraud. Another character is thrown in the mix: black taxi driver Michalis (Kevin Zans Ansong), who becomes an unmissable link in the detective-style plotting that follows.

These kind of mockumentary films have been a staple of arthouse films in the 21st century, however this slyly absurd set-up — quite typical for a national cinema known for its outré narratives — turns out to be a clever vehicle for Jacovides to extract thorny comedy out of Greece’s state of disarray. With a witty sense of irony, Black Stone reckons with the countries’ xenophobia, economic malaise and political divide. One of the funniest scenes involves the Athens’ Black Panther party, that’s still looking for their first black member to join the group.

The mockumentary staging also allows for some farcical visual comedy, recalling the lo-fi brilliance of British comedy gems like the POV-shot series Peep Show (2003 - 2015). In the hands of lesser directors, this clunky type of mise-en-scène would overshadow the emotional core of the movie, but Jacovides makes it work, because he understands how the form of his film is serving the story he wants to tell. So when the moment comes that Black Stone arrives at its most dramatic moment, Jacovides skillfully navigates that tonal shift, resulting in a gently uplifting film about the rewarding chaos of family life.

Hugo Emmerzael