Reviewed by: Robert Munro

"The performances of Kora Karvouni as Anna and Maria Skoula as Sophia are captivating."

A delicately well crafted drama about loss and loneliness, September details the life of Anna, a single woman who lives for her dog Manu. When Manu dies, Anna awkwardly ingratiates herself into the life of neighbour Sophia, longing for her seemingly happy family life.

Director Penny Panayotopoulou and Cinematographer Girogos Michelis imbue every frame with the haunted imagery of Anna's loneliness and isolation. Anna rises in a glass lift in a supermarket in the foreground while Sophia and her family shop in the background. Separated by the cold glass, Anna quickly presses the down button before her neighbours catch a glimpse of her. They walk towards the lift as Anna and it descend out of sight.

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The trick is repeated later in the film, as Anna stalks Sophia's house from outside. Sophia prepares dinner inside, oblivious to the ghostly reflection of Anna in the window immediately in front of her. This visual metaphor continues throughout the film - Anna framed with Sophia and her family, but always separated, always distant.

The tension levels rise as Sophia initially welcomes Anna into her and her family's life, much to the dislike of her husband Stathis. Anna is awkward, imposing, socially bereft yet Sophia does her best to appear friendly during Anna's time of grievance.

There is a general tension of dissatisfaction about all of the characters. Sophia and Stathis seem to have a distant relationship, his work always coming first. Sophia lives for her kids but alludes to a time when she could be beautiful, young, single and free. Anna contaminates every frame with her desperate loneliness - she almost pleads with her sister to come visit her from New York.

It's perhaps too tempting to read into every Greek film a metaphor for the troubled times of austerity through which that country has trod. Yet it's hard to avoid in September. Anna is the charity case, who always feels like she's on the outside looking in - looking in at the family who have it all: the nice house, kids, yard and family dinners. Her sister's distant ambivalence from New York. The traumatic shock of losing Manu from which she struggles to recover.

Panayotopoulou handles the material very carefully to allow for such ambiguities and to stop the film from falling into mawkish stalker/thriller territory as Anna becomes increasingly involved in the lives of her neighbours, causing them grief and alarm. The performances of Kora Karvouni as Anna and Maria Skoula as Sophia are captivating in their cat-and-mouse like relationship, one constantly trying to figure the other out.

Reviewed on: 30 Jun 2014
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September packshot
Anna, a taciturn 30-something, lives in a small flat with her dog Manu, who means everything to her. After a distressing incident which disrupts her life, Anna attaches herself to the family of Sofia, a happily married woman and mother of two children.

Director: Penny Panayotopoulou

Writer: Penny Panayotopoulou, Kallia Papadaki

Starring: Nikos Diamandis, Kora Karvouni, Youlika Skafida, Maria Skoula, Christos Stergioglou

Year: 2013

Runtime: 105 minutes

Country: Greece, Germany


Karlovy 2013
EIFF 2014

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