By Thomas Johnson, October 3 2018 —
The premise of Babis Makridis’s Pity, at its shallowest depth, is one of an otherwise successful man, known as The Lawyer, coping with a wife-shaped hole in his life that’s newly depressed every morning when he wakes up feeling as empty as his bed. However, the deeper you fall into the hollow core of Pity, the more obvious it becomes that Makridis’s black-comedy is less about the ability to cope with sadness and more about our dependence on it.
Those familiar with Yorgos Lanthimos’s anti-comedies The Lobster (2015) and The Killing Of A Sacred Deer (2017) will find that Pity immediately recalls a similar drab-and-dreary atmosphere, thanks in large part to Efthymis Filippou’s scripting. Deafening silences make up the bulk of the film’s action and the spaces in between the sparse dialogue draws uncomfortable laughter and shudders in equal measure. Every morning, The Lawyer sobs alone at the foot of his bed, while his son sits across the hall and waits for his father to compose himself. In one of the film’s most memorable scenes, The Lawyer — at first an endearingly pitiful creature portrayed by Yannis Drakopoulos — coldly allows himself to a moment of vulnerability with an associate, where one of the most cringe-inducing moments of tenderness to ever grace the silver screen unfolds.
These scenes of quiet pain are dulled slowly by the deceiving glacial pace of the film. By the end, The Lawyer, who’s been broken down and rebuilt by his pain, shows no signs of the docile wretch who had earlier in the film prematurely mourned the loss of his wife. By the film’s climax — an absolute masterclass in pacing — he is merely a husk, the former idea of a man consumed and now fueled by commiseration. Any pity held for the character is overcome by disgust in one of the most gruesome on-screen transformations in memory, without Drakopoulos changing so much as the vacant expression in his eyes.
I laughed several times during Pity, though in retrospect, nothing in the film every truly struck me as funny. There were no jokes, gags, puns or punchlines. It’s a deeply disturbing movie with scattered instances of laughter out of pure of necessity. Eventually, laughter became an impossibility and observing the soul-crushing dilapidation of The Lawyer’s psyche made this Greek Calgary Film entry a painful, pitiful experience. I can’t wait to do it again.