With his wife in a coma, a lawyer (Yannis Drakopoulos) becomes addicted to the pity from the world around him. That’s the curious idea of “Pity,” the latest from director Babis Makridis and his co-screenwriter Efthymis Filippou (“The Lobster,” “The Killing of a Sacred Deer“). If you’re a fan of those films, you’ll have a general idea of what to expect here.
The man (known only as “The Lawyer”) starts his day with a monstrous cry then waits patiently by the door for the downstairs neighbor to bring her homemade orange cake so he and his son can have breakfast. At his office, he gets hugs of empathy from his secretary and somber condolences from the neighborhood dry cleaner. He relishes every chance to mention that his wife’s not doing well because he aches for the attention it brings. When his world suddenly changes for the better, the lawyer realizes that he’s only happy when he’s unhappy and has an even harder time coping with life. Becoming increasingly desperate for the pity that’s now vanished, he will do anything to get it back.
The script is a decidedly dark and mercilessly deadpan character study of despair, but it’s not exactly daring. It’s not original enough and feels like a rip-off of Filippou’s earlier work, right down to the musical cues and the themes of cruelty to animals and hints of classic Greek tragedies. I suppose if you’ve never seen those films you wouldn’t have this reaction because it would all feel new. Although it’s billed as a “dark comedy,” the film isn’t funny. The end result is one that feels sincerely sad and is mostly devoid of laughter.
The film suffers from extremely slow pacing where very little happens in terms of character development and advancement of the plot. It’s hard to care about any character except the loyal family dog, Cookie. (As soon as Cookie showed up onscreen I internally whispered “oh no!” to myself because if you’ve seen any of the other films penned by this duo, you know how they treat animals in their scripts). The first half belabors the point and takes far too long to get to the heart of the matter. Sometimes a slow moving story serves a purpose but here it feels like nothing more than an indifferent time filler. There’s simply too little story that’s stretched too thin.
Visual-wise, the film is wildly successful. Makridis has a nice eye for the neat and orderly, his style reminiscent of a twisted Wes Anderson. It’s beautiful to look at, at least.
Overall, this deadpan style isn’t fresh or new and feels downright lackluster even in the hands of an incredibly talented director and screenwriter.