Dir: John Tatoulis. Australia. 2000. 90 mins.
Prod cos: Media World Features. Worldwide sales: Trident Releasing. Producers: John Tatoulis, Colin J. South, Dionyssis Samiotis, Anastasios Vasiliou. Scr: Tom Galbraith. DoP: Peter Zakharov. Prod des: Stan Antoniades. Ed: Michael Collins. Music: Mikis Theodorakis. Main cast: Lakis Lazopoulos, Zoe Carides, John Bluthal, Claudia Buttazzoni.
Spurred by his grandmother's glinty-eyed obsessions, mild-mannered teacher Mario (Lakis Lazopoulos) hangs a notice reading "Closed due to a vendetta" on the village school gate and heads for Melbourne to kill the recently-found murderer of his long-dead grandfather. "A life for a life - it is the Cretan way." He is soon followed by his impetuous, usually drunk, twin brother (Lazopoulos again) and the two become farcically and emotionally entangled with the part-Greek-part-Australian lives of former villager Stephanos (John Bluthal), his cigar-puffing cronies and his unsettled family.
Impressive filming in beautiful rural Crete, where donkey-riding villagers take calls on their mobile phones, contrasts nicely with suburban life in high-rise Melbourne. There is also touching pain and humour in the prickly relationship between mild Mario, unhappy, tight-lipped Nicki (Zoe Carides) and needy, rebellious teenager Katerina (Claudia Buttazzoni). But writer Tom Galbraith is determined to underline and clarify each plot point no matter how obvious - as, indeed, does composer Mikis Theodorakis. Director Tatoulis indulges a fondness for farce that regularly harms developing tensions. There's lots of silly stuff with shooting guns, hiding under beds, crunching testicles and ogling the desperately sexy neighbour, and an unsophisticated kids' audience often seems the target.
The resolution back in a festive Crete square is nicely affecting, even though Grandmother's ponderous plot explanations contradict all we know about the central vendetta (including, it transpires, a false flashback) and defy all belief.
The movie has grossed the equivalent of its production budget since opening in Greece earlier this year, thanks perhaps to the local star-power of the appealing Lazopoulos. Non-Greek audiences may require more from this easy-going, lightweight, essentially childish fable.