Papadopoulos & Sons | Film reviews, news & interviews
Papadopoulos & Sons
The feel-good hit of the spring? A gentle Greek-London comedy deserves to be
In a just world, Papadopoulos & Sons should join Bend it Like Beckham, East is East and The Full Monty in the micro-genre of thoughtfully entertaining, low-budget British feel-good hits. But the UK cinema industry is not that world, as the makers of last year’s raw and hilarious East End entertainment Wild Bill, given up on before it got near an audience, would be only the latest to tell you. Greek-British writer-director-financier-distributor Marcus Markou’s debut has the odds stacked against it.
His plot follows a well-worn path, as widowed, ruthless entrepreneur Harry Papadopoulos (Stephen Dillane) loses his money and has to move his family in with disreputable, estranged brother Spiros (Georges Corraface), at the derelict South London chippie where his fortune began. There are no directorial flourishes to distract from the story and budget’s creaks. Where Markou scores instead is in the casting and quality of his actors, and the grounding of his comic fairy tale for the New Recession in recognisable, nuanced behaviour.
Stephen Dillane’s Harry is the heart and soul of why Papadopoulos & Sons feels genuine, not mass-produced and manipulative. First seen in his pomp picking up a business award, his humour’s darkly sarcastic, bearing impatient, and parenting, especially of eldest son James (Dillane’s son Frank), who’d rather grow plants than follow in the family Greek food business, intolerant. But even at the start, he’s never the superficially immoral capitalist Hollywood would be setting up for an ending where he’d remain rich while, lesson learned, spending more time with his family. Harry loves his children from the start, bow-tied primary school boffin Theo (Thomas Underhill) and street half-wise teenager Katie (Georgia Groome) just as much as James (pictured above with Dillane, and Selina Cadell as nanny Mrs. Parrington). Though his hubristic desire to race away from his roots makes him borrow beyond his means and lose the family mansion, the supposed good life was boring, not bad.
Dillane gives Harry a watchful thoughtfulness, a fine layer of numbness where grief at his wife’s death may be buried. Corraface’s Spiros seems by contrast a larger than life sensualist, a dancing Zorba the Greek parody, but he too belies first impressions. When he broaches the mistakes that drove the brothers apart and Harry’s hidden grief, it’s deeply moving. And all in what is mostly a high-spirited, good-humoured jape in a fish-and-chip shop.
The supporting cast, including a Turkish kebab shop rival and his son (who’s Romeo and Julieting Katie, pictured right) vigorously fill the street in the South London suburb where the chippie’s reborn. Ed Stoppard’s crass yuppie at the firm profiting from Harry’s insolvency is the worst-written and only unsympathetic character. Markou deserves a long-shot hit because his unpretentious comedy of decent people trying to sort out their lives could be enjoyed by disparate generations and backgrounds (as I’ve seen happen with Bend it Like Beckham), if it got the chance. Making you feel good in the company of recognisable, likeable, flawed humanity is harder than it looks. Getting crowds in to watch is harder still. Don't let that stop you.
Watch the trailer for Papadopoulos & Sons
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