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SARAJEVO 2023 Competition

Review: Medium


- Christina Ioakeimidi crafts a competent, emotional study of young love for her sophomore feature

Review: Medium
Aggeliki Beveratou in Medium

During one of Athens’ notorious heatwaves, 16-year-old Eleftheria (Aggeliki Beveratou in her feature debut) and her older sister Alexandra (Katerina Zisoudi) share a flat. No air conditioning is the norm, windows are wide open, curtains are drawn, yet the sticky melancholia of late summer permeates the images of Christina Ioakeimidi’s sophomore feature, Medium [+see also:
interview: Christina Ioakeimidi
film profile
. The film, which competes for the Heart of Sarajevo award in the main competition of this year’s Sarajevo Film Festival, is a slowed-down version of a coming of age story, adapted from a novel by Giorgos Sibardis. Eleftheria’s name may mean freedom, but she feels stuck in between grieving her mother’s recent death, adapting to her father’s new family, and handling the late stages of her sister’s pregnancy — the reason why the girl from the north of Greece has temporarily moved to Athens in the first place.

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As a character study, Medium manages to leave a healthy distance between its teenage protagonist and a more nuanced understanding of the world held by adults. What this entails is a form of emotive storytelling, enhanced by Petros Noussias’ handheld camera which follows and confronts Eleftheria when needed. In a condensed time — the end of the summer holiday — in a foreign place — the Greek capital as a surrogate home — and in between a triangle of obligations, she chooses to break free. Spending time with her neighbour Angelos (Nikolakis Zeginoglou), a 26-year-old medical student, is what turns her whole world around and their fling develops ever so slightly, until it bursts into moments of glorious impermanence. This young love feels authentic and indescribable, and of course, comes at a cost. Late nights sneaking away from home, abandoning her sister and ignoring her father, the protagonist prefers to dwell in the unknown together with Angelos.

But such simple things are never that uncomplicated. A glimpse into Angelos’s life suggests a broken family home, an ex male partner, and, curiously, a medium friend. Anna (Martha Fritzila) seems like an extraordinary character with a rich background story but is given little screen time; the lavish but traumatic life of an eccentric fortune teller becomes a bonding topic for the couple. Even if it is suggested that Eleftheria herself has the gift to be a medium, this narrative line is oblique and feels more distracting than helpful. As a result, the film’s title fits more nicely with the median position of the main character in between everyone else’s stories, rather than bearing a direct relation to the supernatural. 

Medium is Ioakeimidi’s second film after 2010’s Harisma, but the gap in between has only sharpened her sensibilities as a director. She and Beveratou have managed to capture the insecure yet steadfast way a young woman in love moves through the world, with her head held high. At the same time, she allows herself the vulnerability one succumbs to only once in life, the first time. In this way, Medium negotiates the mechanisms of identification with the help of love, heartbreak, and loneliness, to deliver a competent, fittingly loose film, about surviving one’s first romance.

Medium is a co-production between Greece’s Ekso Productions and Bulgaria’s Red Carpet. Wide Management handles the film’s sales worldwide.

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