The feature debut from writer-director Dimitris Bavellas, Runaway Day is an odd, yet delightful, mix of sci-fi, social commentary and one or two groovy songs. I wasn’t sure if the film would work for me as it started to play out, but then it just . . . . . did.
The film begins with an appealing advert for Athens. It’s an old advert from the ’60s. And then we cut to the Athens of today. A city that has been rocked by the economic disaster that affected the entire country of Greece. A woman (Maria Skoula) sits on her sofa while the kids run about and play. A man (Efthymis Papadimitriou) avoids phone calls from unknown numbers as he looks at his pile of debt recovery letters. Meanwhile, news reports start to mention a growing number of people simply disappearing from the city. Lots of people have just decided to run away. They could be reacting to some subliminal signal, or it could be something else at work.
The movie may seem very slight, but the setting infuses the material with depth that make it integral to the unfolding events. With the amount of people in financial distress around the world today, who wouldn’t want to just run away from their responsibilities? Yet where would you run TO in a country so devastated by a widespread socio-economic mess?
Skoula and Papadimitriou both do well in their roles, and both get the chance to run away. Their characters have very different reasons for their flight, which once again makes viewers wonder if people are being given a signal or just acting on an opportunity. Eva Vogli is a delight as a young schoolgirl enjoying the freedom of “runaway day” and Constantino Staridas is an interesting figure, playing a debt collector who is going to great lengths to track down the character played by Papadimitriou.
While the events hold a mystery, and potential to ruin lives, the tone of the movie swiftly moves from ominous to jubilant. It embraces the obvious pleasure derived from getting to run away from it all. The guilt for any individuals, if they feel it, is lessened by the fact that it becomes a group act. This allows for some people to stop and play football with kids, while others enjoy dancing around outdoors in front of a live band (to the groovy songs mentioned earlier).
Interesting, unique and relevant, Runaway Day isn’t completely successful, but it’s certainly good enough to merit your time and attention.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: DIMITRIS BAVELLAS
STARS: MARIA SKOULA, EFTHYMIS PAPADIMITRIOU, EVA VOGLI, ERRIKOS LITSIS, CONSTANTINOS STARIDAS
RUNTIME: 82 MINS APPROX