When making a coming-of-age drama about a young boy growing up in the 60s, it usually pays to keep the focus tight. Including elements of political intrigue, civil war, coup d’état and sexual misadventure, and tying it all together with a magical realism bow, Uranya suffers mainly through overshooting.
Achilles (Aris Tsapis) and his four friends are suffering through a long Summer in their teenage years. The first rebellion of young men against the stifling influence of their parents is offset by their stumbling approach to their newfound sexuality – they are boys hoping to be men who are really still boys. The visit of US Vice President Spiro Agnew to their village and the imminent moon landing of Apollo 11 spark turmoil for the boys and their small community, and most of all for Achilles. Torn between his desire to see the moon landing and his loyalty to his friends, all that is left is to wish upon a falling star.
The first section of Uranya is just about right – introducing Achilles and his friends and family, it contains moments of comedy, particularly around the interactions of various members of the community, but also hints at the background of recent civil war and the ideological barriers that still separated the country into Right and Left. Those who offended the ruling military junta were liable to be sent into exile, and old friends are separated by suspicion and betrayal. Although much of this historical data is hinted at (and for those not of Greek heritage the nuance may be lost), these concerns are minor in the small village Uranya is set in.
The large cast all perform adequately, although none truly owns their role. Set and costume design allow a sense of late 60s Greece to come through, and the soundtrack is enjoyable and supportive as it should be. It is really the plot that lets Uranya down, and by the final act it has truly lost its way, with its all-too-neat closure of the multiple story threads and the frustration of the final shot which is distractingly reminiscent of Grease. Minor characters resolve their issues, and the hero gets his wish, and yet the resolution is less than satisfying.
There are hints of the movie Uranya may have been scattered throughout – in particular the scenes shared by Achilles and his friends as they discover what drives them as young men. Unfortunately, the distraction of trying to weave in too much political intrigue leaves the central story less effective than it should have been.Rating: