Hard Goodbyes: My Father, from Greek writer-director Penny Panayotopoulou, imagines what it's like when your dad suddenly takes off for the moon. It's 1969, a couple of months before Neil Armstrong will take his small step for man, his giant step for mankind, and 10-year-old Elias (Giorgos Karayannis) has the best father in the world. Or so it seems to Elias. Actually, the father, a traveling salesman, is gone most of the time. But when he returns, he always brings Elias a chocolate bar, which the boy carefully puts away for a rainy day. Alas, the rain arrives when Elias' father fails to show up. How does a child deal with loss? That's the subject of Hard Goodbyes.
We've been down this lonesome road before, of course, in such films as My Life as a Dog and Ponette and, most recently, Millions, which uses grief as a springboard into flights of fancy. Elias has a flight of fancy, too: He believes his father will return in time to watch the moon landing with him, because he said he would. Call it a severe case of denial. Or call it a child coming to grips with death in his own time and his own way. But what's so admirable about Hard Goodbyes is its refusal to push things. With so much evidence to the contrary, Elias has to work at not accepting the truth. And it's his child's imagination that both delays the inevitable and softens the blow.