Greek director Athina Rachel Tsangari’s new comedy has a simple conceit: six men with varying backgrounds are holidaying – or are they imprisoned? – on a lavishly furnished yacht. They’re restricted to the boat for the vast majority of the film, giving it a distinctly theatrical flavour, recalling Harold Pinter both in the banal precision of Tsangari’s script, and how these banalities are laden with homoerotic and violent undercurrents.
The action, such as it is, is organised around a game the men devise to determine which of them is “the best in general”. The usual manifestations of male vanity and competitiveness are pushed to their absurd limits. Rather than play sport, they compete to see which of them can construct a piece of flat-pack furniture the quickest. Instead of side-glances at each other’s abs, they compare erections.
In another director’s hands, this might have been farcical, meaningless artifice, but Tsangari’s gaze is sharp. She treats her subjects charitably, sometimes even tenderly. Crucially, her film is very funny – particularly the literal dick-waving contests – and there’s an impressive litheness to the comedy that offsets the occasional rigidity of the script.
At times, it’s almost anthropological: the game could be a social experiment – what happens when bored men are left alone in a confined space? The camerawork adds to this effect, moving intrusively through the boat, peering over the top-deck at a man doing push-ups or through an open bedroom door as another checks his weight. It's testament to Tsangari’s observational style that their behaviour seems natural. Her film is a delightful, entrancing oddity.