Film – Wednesday 04:45

Wednesday 04:45

From the Thrill category of the BFI London Film Festival comes Greek thriller Wednesday 04:45 (Tetari 04:45) and we set Steve Taylor-Bryant the challenge of viewing it...

‘Austerity’ is a word that frightens most of us as our governments try to get to grips with a spiralling global debt. It’s not a word I would consider for a film, maybe a documentary, but a feature film? Well Alexis Alexiou has used austerity and the recent financial woes suffered by Greece as the backdrop for Wednesday 04:45, and I have to admit now that my preconception that a film based on austerity wouldn’t work was way, way, way, off the mark, as Wednesday 04:45 is as vital a film as it is impressive.

Stelios is the owner of a Jazz Club in Athens. A few years ago, through the help of his former associate Vassos, Stelios received a business loan from The Romanian in order to renovate his club. In 2010, the recession finds Stelios on the brink of bankruptcy unable to repay the loan. The Romanian meets with Stelios and gives him one day to come up with a solution. In a vortex of adultery, drug abuse, violence, guilt and self-deceit, Stelios has a few hours left to save his club, salvage his crumbling marriage, battle the mafia loan-sharks, baptize his employee's kid and show up at school to receive his son's report card as a responsible parent. Omer also owes The Romanian but has no money left and his strip club is empty. He feels he’s paid enough but The Romanian decides to use Omer’s young son as collateral.

With the characters all linked through debt and the dark gritty style, what Wednesday 04:45 reminds me of is a Martin Scorsese film mixed with a pinch of film noir. The tension is palpable, the cinematography and neon lighting help to give a bright gloss to a dark tale and the acting (even in a language that is not my native tongue) is up there with the best that Hollywood thrillers can offer. Both protagonists that owe The Romanian’s money have differing views as to who is to blame for the financial situation they find themselves in and, whilst neither man is particularly likeable, I feel a small amount of sympathy for both. Mimi Branescu as The Romanian is suitably thuggish and evil, and plays the part in a Mafioso way that comes across as convincing and as a viewer I felt suitably threatened. Stelios Mainas, playing his namesake in the film, has an edge to his acting. He takes the various moods he goes through in the time allotted for the repayment and must have twisted himself inside going through the range as it is a stunning portrayal of man who isn’t perfect and yet is trying to do right.

Alexis Alexiou has created a foreign language film that would work in any country in the world we presently live in. The empty, rain soaked Athens becomes almost a character in itself, and Alexiou combines all his obvious filmmaking talent with the backdrop and performances and has produced a thriller that does just what it should. It thrills.

Image - IMDb.