Elena is an old, Greek woman with traditional beliefs. Her refusal to accept her son as a sexualised adult has lead to their estrangement. At his death, she discovers that he had been working in Los Angeles as a gay porn actor. She goes to an adult store to find one of his videos. She takes it home, watches it, and then burns it. Overwhelmed by grief, all she can do is retreat into her memories.
The story presents an uncomfortable and shocking manifestation of grief which challenges the archetype of the wholesome, nurturing mother. And while this example of grief is extreme, it is an amplification of what many mothers may experience. As a child becomes an adult, there is a diminution, or at least a reconfiguration, of the maternal identity. This can be felt all the more intensely if a child turns out to be something different to what the mother had expected or wanted, for example, being gay or lesbian.
Through flashbacks to memories of her son as a little boy, we gain a glimpse of how she raised her son. And as she clings to these memories, we understand that it this version of her life that she yearns for, a version when her son needed her.
In part, this film is about the rejection of a son by his mother because of his sexuality; however, this film looks to represent a more complex dynamic. This mother is both victim and perpetrator. She enabled the loss which now torments her. We gain a sense of her deep regret as a moment from her past echoes in her mind, a moment when she could have reached out to her son and answered his call.
By going to the porn shop and by watching the film, Elena transgresses entrenched boundaries, both personal and social, in a futile effort to connect with her son’s ghost. Her attempt at redemption is tragically poignant, and in our treatment of the story, we have wanted to engender this attempt with beauty.