This film is deliberately slow and meditative, more intent on exploring its themes than in plot. The first act examines the inner and outer states of a single character, and in the second act, two characters. Only in its third act are we given a sense of purpose and mission. Mythology, adaptability, inheritance, obligation, and human connection are the film’s main concerns as it tells the story of how those who look to the past and those who look to the future coexist with one another.
As this movie places so much emphasis on the achievements of the classical Greeks, giving intellectual time to Plato along with elements from Hellenistic mythology, I find it interesting that the screenwriters (of which there are at least three) subvert Aristotle’s dramatic theory by giving more attention to character than to plot. That’s not to say that the film is not engaging – Qualley’s and Mackie’s performances are largely quite good. But the lack of conflict from scene to scene did allow my mind to wander to other production elements in the film’s many open spaces.
The dialogue throughout allowed for a fair amount of subtext, which is always a plus. In certain places, however – mainly during passages where the characters spoke of or even recited passages from classical literature – the dialogue was sufficiently stilted that I felt yanked out of the story. There were also elements of Mackie’s performance that left me a little cold. In the beginning, especially, his character evinces little more than a scowl. And in two places, the sexual politics of the film would be considered (in some circles, at least) problematic: a character makes a pass at someone, that person rejects them, and yet the original character persists until they get what they want; and the story of Leda and the Swan, which is a crucial thematic component of the third act, glosses over an important part of that story.
All that said, I did enjoy this movie. In the face of our hopes for a technological solution to climate change, the question of what we are willing to sacrifice in order to preserve our own history is an important one, and that is where I feel the film was most successful.