Watched: 6 October
I was impressed by the performance of Makis Papadimitriou in Athina Rachel Tsangari’s comedy-drama Chevalier, which came out in 2016, and here he delivers another fine turn as Kostis, a middle-aged doctor whose behaviour becomes increasingly pathetic and unhinged after he takes up a new post on an unnamed Greek resort island. Both films focus on the behaviour of men, though where Chevalier drew laughs from its depiction of absurd male competitiveness Suntan slowly becomes an altogether darker affair.
When Kostis first arrives it is the middle of winter, and there are no tourists to be found on the island. He quickly integrates with the small number of locals who remain, and director Argyris Papadimitropoulos paints a picture of a tight-knit community that is slowly starting to gear up for the summer season; soon enough it is hot again and the island’s resorts are overrun by thousands of Greek and foreign tourists, most of whom seem to do little other than drink and party at night and sunbathe during the day. Kostis takes a shine to one of them, Anna (Elli Tringo), whose leg injury he treats, and gradually he tries to assimilate himself into her group of friends, despite the fact they are all twenty years younger and only visiting temporarily. As the hedonism continues Kostis becomes infatuated with the woman and begins to neglect his duties as a doctor, which causes much consternation among the locals, who aren’t exactly reluctant in voicing their disapproval.
For the first two acts Suntan is mostly an amusing affair, in the sense that you are not only constantly cringing at Kostis’ drunken antics and his sad need to impress (which is ultimately driven by loneliness), but also at the group of people that he’s desperately trying to befriend and some of the other locals, particularly the crude and sleazy Takis (Yannis Tsortekis), whose attitude to the drunken tourist women is gradually copied by Kostis. Somewhat inevitably things take a darker turn during the third act as the doctor’s bad behaviour inevitably leads to something more horrifying, and there’s an ugliness to the film’s finale that is as disturbing as it is absurd. Well-acted and well-paced, it’s worth seeking out. (***½)