Fantastic Fest Review: COSMIC CANDY Is A Charming Ode To Growing Up And Letting Go
Cosmic Candy is a Greek comedy film about child abandonment. Now hold on, wait a minute, stick with me here, because it’s actually pretty solid. I wouldn’t exactly call it a gutbuster, but Cosmic Candy turns out to be a charming film, showcasing a fairly complex character in its protagonist and a certain level of faith in its audience to piece necessary plot elements together without holding your hand or straight up expositing them at you. But be forewarned that it’s also a film about absent father figures and the psychological impact that can have on a person, which maybe detracts from the absurdity of its comic conceits but also makes for an interesting examination on those terms.
This is the story of Anna, a woman in her thirties who, after fifteen years, continues to work in the grocery store her dad co-founded. She is obsessed with order and resistant to change, obsessing over minor tasks and refusing to even update her uniform to the company’s more modern standard, much to the chagrin of her manager. This obsession extends to stocking her own apartment with multiple foodstuffs in replication of the store’s layout and an addiction to the Pop Rocks-like candy that serves as the film’s title. However, when her next-door neighbor’s ten-year-old daughter, Persa, shows up unannounced, proclaiming that her dad hasn’t come home – presumably because he owes money to some unscrupulous types who have been lurking around the building – Anna finds herself saddled with an agent of chaos who challenges her orderly life.
The obvious conflict is based on Persa’s hyperactive carefree nature intruding on Anna’s sense of control and resistance to change, and while Persa does do a modicum of growing up in her time with Anna, it’s mostly Anna who learns from Persa, ironically coming to understand her own adulthood in contrast to Persa’s extreme indifference to consequence. Persa wakes Anna up with loud singing in preparation for a school play, shows up announced to Anna's workplace, and tears the apartment apart and eats Anna's stash of Cosmic Candy in a fit of childish boredom.
These sequences are more mildly amusing than they are hilarious, though there is one excellent exception in the form of Persa’s elderly grandmother, who pops up for a scene with hilarious prop work that entirely sells the strangeness of her character. Thankfully, the conventionality of the domestic conflict is heightened by Anna’s absurdist dream sequences, which show us her internal conflict in heightening metaphors that culminate in a bizarre sequence of flying through space in the belly of an anthropomorphic candy gum bubble.
The origins of Anna’s neuroses aren’t exactly surprising or inspired, but Cosmic Candy at least gives the audience enough credit to suss it out for yourself rather than spoon-feed it to you. What does feel forced, though, is an obligatory romantic subplot that is supposed to be Anna’s plot reward for self-improvement but isn’t properly motivated by story or character. But this is forgivable in light of Cosmic Candy being its own kind of junk food cinema. I wouldn’t want to consume a lot of it, and the saccharine sweetness of it is maybe a bit too much for my palate, but it’s a tasty enough treat while it lasts.