Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Though there is a strong idea here, Voulgaris never quite succeeds in teasing out its potential."

On a lonely beach, four girls on the cusp of adulthood gather. They have towels and bathing suits and will spend the day lying in the sun, splashing around in the water and playing together. At a distance, two adults sit in a car, watching them. High up on the clifftop sits a lonely house. hey speculate that somebody may be watching from there, too, and idly wonder who that person might be. Above all, they wonder what their story would be if they were in a film.

This game of making up stories, trading identities, lies at the heart of Alexander Voulgaris' film, but there's a serious purpose behind it. The girls are here for a reason. Little clues as to what that is are scattered throughout. When the revelation eventually comes, most viewers will not be surprised, but the real substance here is in the girls' interaction over the course of the day. There are, after all, relatively few films in which girls of this age enjoy the freedom to simply be human. At ease with each other as they are, there's no sense of them holding back as they share their ideas and fantasies. They are not afraid of embarrassment or of taking up space.

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Might the fact that we see this through the eyes of a male writer/director give one pause for thought? Perhaps - but that might also be considered part of the game. In an early scene, the girls pretend to be Playboy models, adopting a variety of classic poses which become hilarious the moment they move or blink and their humanity shows through. Reflections on the work of celebrated European directors - and Woody Allen - make room for a sly critique of the way girls their age are imagined, even as the themselves enthuse about some of that work. Their obsessive film nerdery also feels like a response to some of the conversations played out between men in Quentin Tarantino's work.

It is, of course, difficult to pull off a film like this without it getting mired in its own pretension. Winona is too long and in places it drags; in others it dwells on the girls' antics in a way which itself verges on objectification. Though there is a strong idea here, Voulgaris never quite succeeds in teasing out its potential. Nevertheless, its stars acquit themselves well and one is left hoping that it will be a prelude to similar works which are more tightly honed.

Reviewed on: 04 Jun 2021
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Winona packshot
Four young women gambol on a beach. A day of play for close friends, it seems, but there's a reason they’re here.

Director: Alexander Voulgaris

Writer: Alexander Voulgaris

Starring: Anthi Efstratiadou, Sofia Kokkali, Iro Bezou, Daphne Patakia

Year: 2019

Runtime: 87 minutes

Country: Greece


Cheltenham 2021

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