Little Sofía loves her grumpy granny: even though she is always hungry and eats what little food they can buy. Her pension is the only thing keeping her and her father alive. What extremes will they go to once granny is no more?
Director Effie Papa creates a wonderful fantasy film based on a story by Nina Kouletakis. Told from the point of view of Sofia, a little girl living with her father and grandmother, this story follows a family struggling to survive an economic depression. Papa does well to harvest comedy out of circumstances so bleak (not to mention relevant in terms of troubling events within Greece and the Eurozone) and succeeds by using Sofia’s inexhaustible love and enthusiasm for her family.
The greatest point of sympathy is for Sofia’s father, who struggles to find the money to keep their family afloat, ultimately having to rely on his mother’s pension. This devoted father (and son) suffers in silence and does his best to hide his desperation from his daughter (who notices but admires him no less for it).
Both the drama and comedy are provided almost single handedly by the titular granny, whose dour and abrasive personality keep her face locked into a permanent frown. This frowning old lady provides no end of laughs as she devours any food that appears in her vicinity, including the family goldfish that the father is forced to cook.
The ray of sunshine that lifts the film, however is the narration of Sofia (performed by director Effie Papa). Her ultra-positive perspective gives a huge dose of whimsy to what would otherwise be a desperately depressing situation. Sofia’s granny, either by choice or by coercion, is the one who keeps the family afloat and earns almost magical status from Sofia as a result. This status is fulfilled in the latter half of the film, once the story shifts gear from comedy-tinged drama to comedy-tinged fantasy.
Utilising stop motion animation and doll-style characters, Papa’s visual tone matches the mood set by Sofia’s fanciful narration. The art design in general has a very doll’s house feel to it, right down to the level of detail applied to the sets and costumes. As well as the narration, and a playfully Greek musical score from Dave Pearce dominating the soundtrack, Louise Brown’s foley and Marton Kristof’s final mix, give body and life to the audio atmosphere of the film, from the intrinsic sounds of the family’s neighbourhood to comical tone of the film’s more fantastical elements.
As the events of the story eventually give meaning to the film’s title, we realise that we are on an adventure with Sofia. To her this is a rollercoaster ride of circumstances that pit her family against the odds, odds that she knows they can beat as long as they stick together. Sofia refuses to shy away from playing her part to support the family by enacting her plan to grow orange seeds, which while it has little chance of success ends up being pivotal in how the rest of the story unfolds.
This is an adventure that we are happy to take with Sofia as her infectious enthusiasm makes us as sure of happy ending as she is. Stellar animation and storytelling makes this an experience that promises not to disappoint.
Studio: National Film & Television School | Year: 2014 | Genre: Animation/Drama | Duration: 10 mins | Suitability: General