Friends out to prove who’s best are all the worst

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

RPL Film Theatre
Aug. 18-21
3 out of 5

The Greeks are slowly making their way back to the art film circuit. Thanks to frequently awarded filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, Dogtooth), the country’s industry is getting exposure it hasn’t had since Theo Angelopoulos at his peak.

Athina Tsangari’s Chevalier isn’t as surreal as Lanthimos’ movies, but it’s just as insightful.

In Chevalier, Tsangari fixes her gaze on a group of men, and what she sees is less than wholesome. Six so-called friends on a fishing trip agree to play a social game, one in which the goal is to determine who is the best. Period. This leads to a litany of random competitions from skipping stones to cholesterol levels, all of which reveal glaring insecurities and how easily vanity can take over.

While it could turn into a testosterone-fueled battle royale (a certainty if it was made in the U.S.), Tsangari keeps things under control. The more meaningful moments are the low-key ones: one of the men pretends to be sleeping in perfect position, fully aware the others are watching and judging him.

A case could be made that these men are openly doing something the rest of us do secretly: constantly assessing the competition.

Chevalier fails, however, to come up with a bigger picture or provide character arcs. The details ring true, but they add up to very little, and there’s no payoff. An intriguing aspect of the movie — the idea of a well-off middle class in crisis-stricken Greece — is never addressed.

Chevalier has a great foundation but the final construction is unpolished. Could’ve been better.