Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Family Member (orig. Μέλος Οικογενείας / Melos Oikoyenias) [2015]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
AltCine.com listing
CinEuropa.org listing

TheReviewer.eu (D. Floros) review*
Parathyro.com (M. Moyséos) review*

Family Member (orig. Μέλος Οικογενείας / Melos Oikoyenias) [2015] [IMDb] [AC] [CEu] (written and directed by Marinos Kartikkis [IMDb] [AC] [CEu]) is a FAMILY DRAMEDY from CYPRUS that recently played at the 19th (2016) Chicago European Union Film Festival held at the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chicago.

Set in the context of the continuing European Economic Crisis, Yorgos and Sophia (played respectively by Christopher Greco [IMDb] [AC] and Yiola Klitou [IMDb] [AC]) would seem to be a typical 40-something married Cypriot couple, middle class, with two children, teenage Anna (played by Ntora Makrigianni [IMDb] [AC]) and 10 y/o Christos (played by Ioannis Melekis [IMDb]), and run a family neighborhood grocery store in one or another Cypriot town, presumably suburban Nicosia.  Living with them is also Sophia's father (played by Glafkos Georgiades [AC])

A typical middle class Cypriot family that they are, they find themselves in enormous debt.  Why?  There is no money.  Their customers routinely come to their store and plead to buy on credit, and the two, Yorgos especially, simply can't bring themselves to tell them no.  Why? Because their customers are not buying inessentials, they're basically things that they need to live on.  And all promise essentially the same thing -- "money is going to come."  When?  No one really knows, but one gets the impression that the whole economy is operating on a system of IOUs.  The problem is that while this can work on a neighborhood level where everyone knows each other, but one can't pay for water or Electricity with IOUs.

SO, when Sophia's father dies in his sleep one night, he just doesn't wake-up one morning, Sophia realizes that it was his pension that kept the roof over their heads.  What to do?  Remember this is a movie ... hence something of a "thought experiment" - where fictionalized people could be allowed to do what real people could not do (or would not do because of the obvious risk / issues involved) but perhaps (in their darker moments) at least "thought about."

SO ... Sophia comes up with a somewhat desperate scheme:  Yorgos and her would _respectfully_ take Sophia's father's body IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT ;-) "back to village" and bury him _respectfully_ (again IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT) in the family plot - where his wife, Sophia's mother is also buried - in the Christian cemetery (again, they'd _want to be respectful_ about it) BUT ... they would NOT DECLARE IT ANYWHERE ... so they could continue to accept Sophia's father's social security checks.

And they do so ... take Sophia's father's body, wrapped in a couple of thick plastic garbage bag, and with a couple shovels working, in the dead of night, they successful bury Sophia's father's body in their family plot "back in the village" without anyone apparently knowing the wiser.

BUT ... inevitable problems arise.  Sophia's father would get a social security check THAT HE'D HAVE TO GO TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD BANK TO CASH.  But he's dead.  Well, at least with the first check, Sophia figures that since "everybody knows them" the bank would cash at least that first check with his signature but without him present because she'd present it to the bank-manager with the excuse: "My dad's down with the flu, can you just do us the favor?" if anyone should ask. 

And it seems to work.  But already Yorgos asks, what are we going to do the next time?  Yet, a few days afterwards, the two get a phone call at the grocery store from the Social Security office that they'd like to come over to their house to speak to Sophia's dad.  Ay ... what now?

Well, they "get lucky" ... the following day, in the afternoon, an elderly man shows up at the store, and while they weren't looking, he tries to shoplift a few items.  Yorgos catches him.  The man, supremely embarrassed pleads that he'll just give back the two cans of sardines if they just not report him.

Yorgos would actually just give him the two cans of sardines, but Sophia, looking at him ... he even looked kinda like her father (and is played at minimum by Glafkos Georgiades's [AC] brother Fivos Georgiades [IMDb]) only with a mustache ... decides to ask him a favor ...

The rest of the story, with various twists ensues ...

It's a comedy so it has to end well, but it's also a story that _hopefully_ would discourage real people from doing the same.   It's just too hard and morally taxing to try to pull this off for real.

As such, an interesting and often quite (darkly) fun film about something that the vast majority of us would never ever do.

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