Return to Ithaca
Return to IthacaOriginal Title: Retour à Ithaque
Director: Laurent Cantet
France | Spanish
Subtitles: Arabic and English
Lifelong friends reunite in Havana when one of them returns to Cuba after spending 16 years in Spain, forcing all of them to take stock of their lives in this intimate, politically tinged drama. The film’s title refers to Homer’s Odyssey, but the vibe is more Big Chill as the five pals recall their happy youth before life dealt them its body blows.
The artist Rafa (Fernando Hechevarría) no longer paints. Ophthalmologist Tania (Isabel Santos) barely scrapes by on scant wages. The party’s host Aldo (Pedro Julio Díaz Ferran) used to be an engineer; now his hands are scarred from working in a battery factory. Accountant Eddy (Jorge Perugorría) has cash and the latest consumer gadgets, but has lost his way.
None can understand why Amadeo (Néstor Jiménez) has come back now or why he wants to stay. Though set primarily in one location, Return to Ithaca never feels stage bound, thanks to cinematographer Diego Dussuel’s roving camera and Cantet’s occasional shifting of focus away from his characters to the activities of Aldo’s neighbors or the traffic along the harbor. What unfolds in this drama that has its roots in coscreenwriter Leonardo Paduro’s novel The Palm Tree and the Star and the reminiscences of its characters is a haunting, deeply sympathetic evocation of middle-aged disappointment and disillusionment.