According to In The Strange Pursuit of Laura Durand, the obsession with 80s nostalgia isn’t quite over. Doing the rounds of the festival circuits since 2019, with a release in Greece last year, it will soon be available internationally.
Friends and roommates Atonis (Makos Papadimitriou) and Christos (Michalis Sarantis) are suffering the effects of the Greek economic crash. Atonis struggles to maintain child support payments, and Christos is hiding a serious illness from his friend. When Atonis finds out about Christos’ illness, he encourages him to finally go on a quest to find the porn star they both obsess over who mysteriously disappeared in the mid-90s. They live their lives in the glory days of their youth, with John Carpenter inspired t-shirts, Buckaroo Banzai posters, and stacks of VHS tapes.
When asked who or what they are, they say they are musicians or artists, and the suggestion is that they don’t really know. Raised under economic strength but reaching adulthood during an economic crash, has left them directionless and irrelevant. Through all their hardships, Atonic and Christos have maintained a bizarre fascination with Laura Durand (Anna Kalaitzidou). Unlike most of us, they still have a video player, and when watching one of the titular porn star, they find a hidden message at the end with her asking them to save her. This triggers their odyssey-esque journey, starting on the “dark web” where they meet a fraudulent dwarf, and then through the Greek countryside. Trying to establish where she ended up, both theorising that when they find her, she’ll undoubtedly fall in love with them, and they’ll live happily ever after.
Along the way they get drawn into the worlds of some unusual characters; an elderly lady who seems to be straight out of a gothic novel, a film producer who knew Laura in her heyday, and a cult leader. Each one offers more evidence and another step closer to Laura’s location.
This set up is a charming one, and in some hands may have been a contender for a feel-good film with some real longevity. Unfortunately, wooden performances and an odd construction to the parts of the journey make it ultimately unsatisfying. The friends themselves seem to have little conflict to overcome, with their relationship having no arc or development through the story, and the quest itself is underdeveloped. There are treasure maps in glass bottles, each one with a corner torn away but we’re never told why, and the slightly misogynistic nature of the journey itself is never addressed.
It’s a shame because the idea itself has some legs, and with some additional work it may have been something quite special. On this occasion however, it doesn’t quite stick the landing. Some decent stylistic choices never really make up for its shortfalls, and ultimately, the same story has been told better elsewhere.
In The Strange Pursuit of Laura Durand is released on January 31st