We’ve all encountered men like Kostis, you see them sometimes lurking in the background at clubs, sitting at the bar in a pub making smalltalk to anyone who dares stand next to them. Lonely, troubled individuals, despondent and dispirited, longing to be a part of something. Often so concerned with avoiding eye contact, we resist trying to understand them, what’s led them down this destructive path. But it’s here Argyris Papadimitropoulos’ drama Suntan thrives, getting into the protagonist’s head in this intimate character study that centres on the notion of unhealthy infatuation.
Makis Papadimitriou plays Kostis, who moves to a small island, populated by around 800, to become the new local doctor. The mayor boasts the quiet winter months will help to clear his mind, but tedium kicks in. But then the summer arrives, and the island turns into a holiday destination for young tourists; the beach full of half naked people, the nightclubs crowded with the same people, wearing slightly more clothes. Anna (Elli Tringou) and her group of boisterous friends take a liking to the doctor and invite him out with them, and he agrees. He finds himself partying on a daily basis, reading into signals from his new friend, who he becomes quite worryingly obsessed with.
At the core comes a truly tragic character in Kostis, who we find ourselves rooting for, endeared to him for the vast majority of the picture – allowing the viewer a chance to become emotionally invested in him, so that when he starts to lose the plot, we’re somewhat more sympathetic. It’s a credit to Papadimitriou we do find ourselves caring about him, as we come equipped with little to no context whatsoever. He drops into conversation he’s had a difficult few years, but that’s all we’re privy too.
It’s the small little details too which make this a worthwhile endeavour – like the way he smokes more when he’s stressed, or the fact we constantly see his patients in the background, emphasising the small town feel of the Kostis’ new home – which suffocates him, as though he’s living in a goldfish bowl. This all points towards an accomplished feature, well-paced, well-structured and well moving. It may be billed as a comedy in some places, but at its core is a challenging drama – and a distinctively uncomfortable one at that.
Suntan is released on April 28th.