After her estranged father Paris (Lazaros Georgakopoulos) suffers a debilitating stroke, his grown daughter Artemis (Sofia Kokkali) is summoned home to Athens to care for him. They’ve never been close, and Artemis – with no-one around to help – struggles with the loneliness and exhaustion of constant caregiving. Over time though, she establishes a rapport with her father that they never shared even before his illness, especially after discovering a secret that explains some unresolved questions from her childhood.
Moon, 66 Questions – the feature debut of writer-director Jacqueline Lentzou – lets its scenes play long. Sometimes this yields exquisitely uncomfortable results, as in an early sequence when a physiotherapist teaches Artemis how to care for her father as a group of relatives she barely knows look on. The embarrassment of having to contend with this intimate situation in front of an impassive audience of near-strangers (one cousin is munching on a bag of crisps as she watches) is torturous, and expresses the difficulties of Artemis’s position so viscerally, it forces us to live those unyieldingly awkward minutes right along with her.
Unfortunately though, few of these lengthy scenes are quite as effective. At a way under two hours, this is not a particularly long film, but a preponderance of drawn-out moments that are all there to establish the same set of feelings around Artemis’s discomfort and general isolation can make Moon, 66 Questions a bit of a slog. It doesn’t help that so many of them feature our heroine on her own; for a movie about the relationship between a father and daughter, it’s surprising (and a little frustrating) just how rarely they’re on the screen at the same time.
The boredom of these scenes is alleviated somewhat by the effervescent presence of Sofia Kokkali, whose energetic lead turn is perhaps this film’s biggest strength. The reunion with her father after so many years reignites a latent childishness in Artemis, and the physicality of her performance underlines this temporary regression; as she contends with Paris’s lack of movement, she moves as much as she can. With few other actors to bounce off, Kokkali has an admirable attempt at buoying the movie herself, although the powerful poignancy of the few times she does get to act opposite Georgakopoulos – their final scene together is beautiful – does again make you wish they could have interacted more throughout.
Despite the numerous sluggish moments, Moon, 66 Questions has a continually prepossessing style. Its shot through with a gorgeous peachy pink light, lending events a summery warmth even when emotions are running cold. And in addition to the sporadic sequences from Paris’s grainy 90s VHS home movies, Lentzou often shoots her lengthy scenes from unexpected angles, meaning the film tends to be far more interesting visually than it is narratively.
Whilst a punishing pace and a bewildering lack of interaction between the two main characters can make Moon, 66 Questions an effort to sit through, there’s enough promise here to suggest that Lentzou has a better film in her.