Berlinale Film Festival: The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea

Angeliki Papoulia and Michalis Kimonas in “The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea.”

Dir. Syllas Tzoumerkas. 121 minutes.

After refusing to frame an activist for terrorism, policewoman Elisabeth (Angeliki Papoulia) is transferred to the small, dead-end town of Missolonghi. There, a series of strange violent incidents throws Elisabeth into collision with Rita (Youla Boudali), a hatchery worker also struggling with the stagnant futility of provincial life.

“The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea” is crisp and often very stylishly shot, and strengthened by nuanced, credible performances from its female leads. Unfortunately, it’s all in service of a leaden melodrama that confuses dreariness with authenticity. A film can’t demand to be taken seriously simply by virtue of being packed with suicide, murder, sexual assault and other “serious” material.

There’s a smattering of memorable moments, such as a scene in which a singer unleashes a torrent of abuse on an audience uncertain whether he’s actually insulting them or just being performatively edgy. But, more often, scenes just go on and on, as if reassuring us that the characters have nothing amusing or surprising to say or do. The crowning plot twist is so absurd and pandering that it must be seen to be believed. Even for those of us who prefer arty, melancholy movies, “The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea” doesn’t offer much.