TIFF15 REVIEW: Semele [2015]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 14 minutes | Release Date: 2015 (Cyprus)
Director(s): Myrsini Aristidou
Writer(s): Myrsini Aristidou

“Out of the way, kid”

As children we crave time with our parents—especially when quality family outings prove few and far between. The titular Semele (Vasiliki Kokkoliadi) in Myrsini Aristidou‘s short film will do anything to force some face-to-face, even going so far as hitch-hiking her way to the carpentry plant where her father works to acquire his signature on a school form. Mom’s nowhere to be seen and who knows how long it’s been since Semele and Aris (Yannis Stankoglou) were even in the same room together considering a query about getting pizza for dinner is met with a drag on his cigarette and the declaration he has to go back on the clock. It’s amazing to think such uncertainty and isolation could render a quick trip to the convenience store the best part of a little girl’s week.

Semele is above all else a wonderful character study with two great performances lending a complex range of emotions to what would otherwise appear to be an innocuous situation. To see Kokkoliadi’s smile and genuine excitement at being with her father during the day and somewhere he cannot escape is to also she the pain and suffering their distance has built. Stankoglou’s blank face of shock noticing her in the corner while slicing through blocks of wood gives us all we need to know concerning the stoic nature that puts her out of sight/out of mind. She has intruded upon a part of his life that he takes care to separate and he’s quick to usher her away. Not because it’s a dangerous place, he just isn’t prepared to be her father in this venue.

As soon as Aris shoos Semele to “stay put and not move” we know something will occur to make him confront the merging of these worlds—to tear down his armor and show her the love he doesn’t often share. Glimpses of playfulness and treating her as an equal when engaged in petty larceny proves it’s possible, but showing anger rather than worry for the girl’s journey risks ruining any good will such moments construct. Sometimes we need the smallest of gestures to negate our loneliness—a simple acknowledgement that we exist as more than a chore. It’s easy as a parent to forget this until a moment arrives where the child’s well being becomes paramount to everything else. If you’re to be ignored anyway, what’s the harm in risking injury in the hope they’ll finally see you?

Courtesy of TIFF

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