Kostis (Makis Papadimitriou) is a fortysomething doctor who has secured a position on a Greek island, looking after the residents there as he is posted in the wintertime. He is a lonely soul who does not make friends easily, and even though the locals are pleased to see him and welcome him with generosity, because he is the doctor nobody thinks to reach out to him socially, leaving him sitting alone in bars or restaurants, or in the occasional instances he joins a crowd in celebration, not really mixing with the partygoers. This is all very well, but what happens in the summer when the tourists arrive? One of the brasher residents promises Kostis he can get any girl he wants, and a part of him starts to believe it...
About as far from Cliff Richard in Summer Holiday as it was possible to get, Suntan was a summertime movie with all the bone-aching gloom of a long Scandinavian winter, only it was set in the Mediterranean bathed in the scorching glow of the clement weather. Although plotwise it had the makings of a slasher movie, and it was accurate to judge that narrative as somewhat predictable given what we knew cinematically about middle-aged men who fixate and lust after young girls, this was more a character drama of a romance that wasn't. At least, Kostis thinks he is enjoying a summer romance, but the object of his desire believes she is simply having a bit of harmless fun.
That object was the oft-nude Anna (Elli Tringou), in fact many of the cast male and female alike got their kits off as they either frolicked in the waves or lounged on the beach, yet the mood was not exactly erotic, in fact there was very little arousing about it at all after the scene was set by the opening where Kostis was depicted as more than a sad sack, and possibly borderline depressive. He does describe his life as Hell later on, and regards Anna as the path out of that if only she would reciprocate, but this was a beauty and the beast tale where the beauty was oblivious to the effect she is having, and the beast is sinking gradually into a quicksand of dashed and deeply unrealistic ambitions.
They meet that summer when Anna visits his surgery after falling from a motorbike, there's no real harm done but the emotional variety for Kostis is very impressed with her and her funloving pals who actually raise a smile from him for what may be the first time he has ever been on the island. After hearing them say what beach they will be hanging out at (and they really will be hanging out), the doc makes it his business to just happen to show up for a swim at the exact same spot they are, and oh, what do you know, fancy meeting you here niceties result. Before long, the little man who is as pasty, pudgy and balding as the his new acquaintances are bronzed and lithe, has got it into his head that these are his best friends, and finally he has something to live for; they, meanwhile, think he's funny.
That is, a total joke, and writer and director Argyris Papadimitropoulos (perhaps the longest name of any director in history) based his story on observing how his duties changed as a holidaymaker in the same place in Greece, from teenage hedonist to responsible family man: what if one of the older generation misjudged his place in this vacation community to eventually dreadful consequences? Kostis was not so much the oldest swinger in town as trying to live out the party hard youth he never had about twenty years too late, and Papadimitriou served up a very fine performance of such offputting effect that it was difficult to sympathise with his protagonist. You started cringing (there were hints this was supposed to be funny, in an extremely bleak fashion) and ended up repulsed, which was a strange place to be in a holiday movie, not quite in a horror movie respect, yet by the final scene not too far off. The results were admirable in their dedication to reaching their ghastly outcome, but not an easy watch. Music by Yannis Veslemes.
[Eureka's Blu-ray looks and sounds pristine and has an interview with the director as a featurette.]