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Robert Hull [Film Festival 10.27.12] drama


For all that film is a visual medium, modern-day audiences still prefer a good dash of dialogue served up alongside the main event. However, director-screenwriter Ektoras Lygizos' ambitious film Boy Eating the Bird's Food reinforces the idea that simple images can carry complex information.

This is a daring, bold attempt at a tale - with few scripted lines - which highlights the unraveling of a man's life, while also reflecting on how the financial crisis and austerity measures have affected Greece. It is short, at 80 minutes, but also languid, and filmed in a cinema verite-style that ensures its lead character Yannis (Yannis Papadopoulos) is shot in unflinching detail.

The title is literal. Yannis is a young man with no money or job. He has one companion at a flat in which the bills are all going unpaid: his canary. With food scarce he finds himself stealing just a little taste of the bird food he so lovingly attaches to the cage for his friend. Yannis tries to find work but either fails or, in the case of a call-center job, he can only tolerate it for a short period.

It is made clear in a raw and intimate performance from Papadopoulos - perhaps too intimate in the case of a scene involving "self-love" and "refreshment" - that this is a man who cannot cope with the world as it is. Even his attempts at romance with a hotel worker (Lila Baklesi) are sinister and awkward. And, as he spirals out of control is it becoming apparent, in his twitches and squawks, that he is taking on the characteristics of his feathered housemate?

Papadopoulos is so dedicated in his performance that it almost masks - or makes up for - the film's shortcomings. But it doesn't quite. The main drawback is that almost from the outset it is apparent Yannis is not an everyman character. He does not come across as a decent man with a troubled soul. When we meet him, he is already too far-gone to be identified with, and the fact that he can't represent "our" troubles works against the idea of this movie as a parable.

With no sub-plot or other characters to add to or distract from the main story, Boy Eating the Bird's Food is a film with one trick in its locker. If you buy into that then you may relish it as a provocative exploration of a life in a tailspin. However, if you don't then it becomes a one-note take on a story that shies away from having the common touch in favour of going to extremes.

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