Directed by Michael Winterbottom, The Trip to Greece sees Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon return for one last journey together, this time through Greece’s historic landscapes. Following in the footsteps of The Odyssey, Coogan and Brydon travel from Troy to Ithaca, tasting the rich mythology, delicacies and wine of the region along the way. Partly scripted, partly improvised and fully engaging, the two men roll through the region’s lush countryside with humour and heart as they both wrestle with the challenges of being away from their families.
As the fourth entry into the acclaimed Trip series, The Trip to Greece differs very little from its own formula yet, once again, proves that to do so would jeopardize the quality of this unlikeliest of franchises. Like a fine wine, The Trip films seem to become more charming with age. With each meal, impersonation and winding road, the banter between these old friends continues to become more engaging and charming. Though playing heightened versions of themselves, the familiar improvisation between the two men and the simplicity of their conversations helps these films feel authentic. These are not two stars battling for screen time. Rather, they are old friends wandering through life (and history) together who have invited us to join them along the way.
As always, the true star of the film is the tour itself. Featuring the stunning coastlines and unique cultural cuisine of Greece, Winterbottom knows how to allow the beauty of the area to take centre stage and enchant the audience. For example, he repeatedly allows the dialogue to fade for the sake of the stunning classical soundtrack or even simply background noise. In doing so, the film takes pause and celebrate the beauty that surrounds them. (In fact, the film is so cinematic that I actually found myself regretting that I was unable to enjoy the film on the big screen in theatre.) Waiters are allowed to describe the meals, making them valuable to the narrative. Long drives feel adventurous, as opposed to dragging chores. Simple stylistic choices like this bring The Trip to Greece to life, making the film feel like a time of sabbatical rest to be enjoyed, not a job to be done.
Unique to this journey is an acknowledgment of the passage of time as Steve Coogan processes the impending death of his father. Plagued by nightmares about death and ‘finishing well’, his trip is tainted by his family’s hurt which quietly haunts him in the background. Similar to other Trip films, the character development within Greece grounds the piece with a deeper sense of reality that lives continue on with all their brokenness, despite the overwhelming beauty of their surroundings. This time, Coogan and Bryden acknowledge that time has passed (10 years!) since they first began their trips together and explore whether or not they have aged well during that time. As the men playfully race across the lake, the challenge quickly becomes as much about proving their youthfulness as it is about enjoying the time that they have together. (Incidentally, this recognition of age also places an interesting dichotomy between the two men. Balancing the stages of life in one film, Coogan grapples with life as the son grieving his father, while Brydon celebrates life as the father with his own young children.)
By acknowledging the impending nature of death, Greece somehow manages to invigorate the power of living in the moment in the process. With every bite from an entrée, conversation and crashing wave, Winterbottom’s film celebrates the relationships that matter in our lives and the time that we already have today. By pointing back their families, Coogan and Brydon’s relationship is one of many that matters within the film, even with its small cast. As such, The Trip to Greece may be a walk through history but it also shows what matters in the present.
Both Coogan and Brydon have stated that this would be the final Trip in the series. However, if true, that really would be a tragedy. While the franchise may be showing its age, The Trip to Greece is yet another beautiful journey through landmarks, lunch and life that makes you want to take another trip after this one.
The Trip to Greece begins its final journey on video on demand on Friday, May 22, 2020.