Berlinale 2021 Review: A Daughter and Father’s Relationship Takes On Its Own Gravity in Jacqueline Lentzou’s “Moon 66 Questions”

In one of the most striking scenes in “Moon, 66 Questions,” Artemis (Sofia Kokkali) is asked to learn how to stabilize her father Paris (Lazaros Georgakopoulos), said to suffer from multiple sclerosis, though she’s never been entirely clear on what ails him. Her uncle Kostas and aunt Anna, both mildly contemptuous for seeming a little too eager to leave this all to her, insist on the visiting physician showing her the proper way to hold up Paris in order to let him down easily, a movement that brings the two eye to eye after years in which such a thing wasn’t possible in any respect. As Paris struggles physically to stand straight, you can see Artemis’ struggle just as precisely as she looks down, not only unsure of what she’s doing per the doctor’s instructions, but what she’s ultimately doing there at all.

Writer/director Jacqueline Lentzou inserts slivers of home videos throughout her debut feature, presumably authentic slivers her lived experience based on the ‘90s time stamps, but impressively, it’s what she’s able to conjure from her actors that seems the most real. Although that means little overt explanation for Artemis’ departure or return, letting a conversation with a stranger heard over old videos hint at a fraught relationship between her and her father, it’s the elisions that often make “Moon, 66 Questions” ring true, as it will later make perfect sense when a driver innocently asks, “It’s summer, you’re a girl. Why so much angst?” Artemis can only tell him inaccurately she’s caring for her uncle. Two-way conversations are a bit of a rarity for Artemis when she can hardly confide in Paris and visits to the house from others are unusual, except for his friend Mr. Ianakos (Nikitas Tsakiroglou), who will bring by peaches.

Lantzou will brilliantly withhold the complete context of certain scenes to observe how often Artemis will appear to following her own playful instincts, only to realize she’s trying to amuse herself when she’s beholden to Paris’ needs whether it is a trip to the swimming pool for therapy or a handicap supply store. While Georgakopoulos is eerily credible as Paris, Kokkali is captivating as Artemis, able to hold the long takes in which it’s fascinating to simply watch her process what’s happening to her. For anyone that’s taken care of a loved one as they grow weaker, there’s a chilling familiarity that sets in as the stir-craziness of feeling helpless begins to metastasize into resentment and the isolation of having no one else to turn to for help manifests itself in unexpected behavior.

For as much as Artemis can surprise herself in terms of where her mind goes, Lentzou consistently finds fresh ways to bring audiences into this disorienting experience directly where everyday objects such as tousled bedsheets suddenly become obstacles to overcome and in spite of the filmmaker’s occasional ornamentation of tarot cards and intergalactic queries, the most surreal moments of “Moon, 66 Questions” happen here on earth. There may be some slight frustration in Lentzou’s sometimes tenative engagement with the ideas she sets up, whether stylistically with the cutaways from the main story that can occasionally feel more like intrusions than accentuation or narratively when certain characters or ideas are stronger in the form of allusions than when they eventually take shape for a limited time at the end. Yet the raw power of what Lentzou has captured and her remarkable sense of observation, working with cinematographer Konstantinos Koukoulios to relate Artemis’ emotions through the camerawork, is undeniable and for as stifling as it can feel when having only the sky as company to hear one’s wishes, “Moon, 66 Questions” gives great comfort in making it seem as if someone is always listening.

“Moon, 66 Questions” will play at Berlinale in the Encounters section.