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Stars: Richard Brancatisano, Andrea Demetriades, Helen Chebatte, Tony Nikolakopoulos, Zoe Carides, Simon Elrahi, Millies Samuels, Alex Lykos, Ryan O’Kane, Rahel Romahm, Nathan Melki and George Kapinaris.
Writer: Alex Lykos.
Director: Peter Andrikidis.

Rating: 3.5/5

Embracing the same broad ethnic-comedy brushstrokes that propelled Joel Zwick’s 2002 romp My Big Fat Greek Wedding, director Peter Andrikidis’ Alex & Eve can expect to evoke a similar warmth from audiences receptive to both well-timed rom-com tropes and the immigrant experience. As the kickstarter for the 2015 Greek Film Festival, launching October 14 in Sydney and Melbourne, organisers have delivered on the ‘feel good’ factor with this surefire crowdpleaser.

The central romance is an oft-told tale, one of true love forced to overcome the obstacle of prejudice to find its fullest potential and make better the lives of everyone it touches. The ‘Romeo’ is Greek maths teacher Alex, played with an unaffected ease by Richard Brancatisano, whose features and frame conjure a young John Cassavettes by way of ‘Friends’ clown Matt Le Blanc. His ‘Juliet’ is the wonderful Andrea Dimitriades as Eve, a strong-willed and modern Lebanese Muslim who is struggling with an impending arranged nuptials.

The first act offers up a series of unremarkable but efficient story beats, as the pair meet-cute, contemplate the pros and cons of their developing feelings and bounce off the advice and interference of friends and families. Best amongst the boisterous support cast are Millie Samuels as the blonde, blue-eyed Aussie ‘outsider’, Claire; comic veteran George Kapinaris as Uncle Taso; and, Nathan Melki, a standout as the fearlessly foul-mouthed high schooler.

The film finds its strongest, most stirring voice in the second-act scenes that explore the seething tensions and ingrained preconceptions inherent to each culture’s traditions. As the patriarchs of the respective clans, Tony Nikolakopoulos (as Greek blowhard, George) and Simon Elrahi (as sagacious Lebanese, Bassam), offer nuanced variations on potentially clichéd characterisations; similarly, the matriarchs (Zoe Carides as Chloe; the terrific Helen Chebatte as Salwa) have enough screen time and succinct dialogue to provide depth and dimension.

Playwright (and bit player) Alex Lykos thoughtfully adapts his own hit stage play, which has sold out theatres in Australia’s state capitals since it launched in 2006, spawning two ‘A&E’ sequels (‘The Wedding’ and ‘The Baby’). Detractors may gripe that his formatting is too ‘sitcom simple,’ but what Lykos’ structure lacks in ambition nevertheless provides the very platform for an insightful and, most importantly, accessible examination of generational multiculturalism.

One of the local industry’s most respected small-screen directors, Alex and Eve represents only the second time in a career spanning nearly four decades that Peter Andrikidis’ has ventured into feature film; his last, the much derided 2010 comedy, The Kings of Mykonos. But his skilful pacing and widescreen treatment is all pro, ensuring scant evidence of the project’s stage origins remain. With Sydney’s racially diverse suburban enclaves and harbourside splendour as the backdrop, the director and his DOP, veteran lensman Joseph Pickering (Windrider, 1986; Sons of Steel, 1988; Idiot Box, 1996) have crafted a fittingly evocative romantic cityscape, worthy of the engaging drama unfolding before it.

Alex & Eve will open the 2015 Greek Film Festival in both Sydney and Melbourne on October 14; other capitals to follow. Ticketing and venue information can be found at the event's official website.

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