The first film scene sets the tone. Pause (formerly called 'Menopause'), the first feature film by Cypriot film director Tonia Mishiali has her main character in the gynaecological examination chair, only to told by her doctor that she is doomed by an array of symptoms. But that's life (and menopause), and nothing can be done about it.

Pause, the sober but moving drama by Tonia Mishiali (premiered at the 2018 Karlovy Vary festival) is a bleak view of a society which still takes women subordination as a matter of fact, while the film itself presents at the same time a restless investigation of alternative possibilities. Elpida -Hope (an affective performance by Stela Fyrogeni) has everything a woman won't need. She has to bear an abusive husband (Andreas Vasiliou), who keeps her financially dependent on pocket money, while her daughter (Georgina Tatsi) and her grandchild are far away from her, unable to offer any kind of assistance. Elpida can neither spend her time on Internet surfing; she needs to satisfy her entertainment needs by using a separate TV set to watch (headphones on) her favorite TV programmes: action films and documentaries on sexual reproduction. Her husband Costas is perennially hooked on to football watching.

Moving between Almodovarian sexual fantasies and a Mike Leigh territory of tortured female characters, Mishiali and her co-writer Anna Fotiadou, eventually settle for a genre trope that is as tested as James M. Cain: the hot young painter with the foreign accent is ready to provide Elpida the solace she may need; or, again, he may not.

Elpida's husband (the marriage, we learn, was the result of a bad case of matchmaking) has few redeeming qualities in Pause; this makes it easier to empathize all the more with Elpida, who needs to get out of her own closet and her immaculately dreary surroundings -in any way she can. Her more coquettish friend Eleftheria (a much welcome comic turn by Popi Avraam) can bring relief, but can't prescribe a course of action. Even though the sun bleaches their blue-tinged flat, it  still can't change Elpida's moods. And here is the point where the mind does its own tricks.

Not always successful, but still registering a strong sense of déjà vu, the 'what-if' scenes in Elpida's mind get progressively more daring, more frequent and more difficult to decipher. But Elpida is always at the center of this, whether she is framed karaoke singing a 70s disco song, or silent in her department contemplating what's next in the step of  freedom. In many ways, her just being there is more important for the film as a whole than her thinking modes of revenge.

The finale is the most appropriate cathartic to Elpida's story, to bookend a life that holds its own surprises apart from own intentions. Pause is a film that carries its long held memories of female oppression (right into the present era) inside a bottle of pills ready for inspection and consumption. The film is observant, and Mishiali uses deftly its main character towards her self-regulated journey to freedom.

Vassilis Kroustallis

PAUSE (2018) | 96 min. | drama | Cyprus | Greece
Written and Directed by: Tonia Mishiali
​Production company: A.B. Seahorse Film Productions, Produced by: Andros Achilleos | Stelana Kliris | Tonia Mishiali
Co-production Company: Soul Productions, Co-produced by: Ioanna Soultani | Panos Bisdas
Funded by: Ministry of Education and Culture of Cyprus | Greek Film Centre | SEE Cinema Network

Co-writer: Anna Fotiadou
Production manager: Marinos Charalambous / Assistant director: Alexia Roider / Associate Producer: Polyvios Symeonide

Stela Fyrogeni as ELPIDA
Andreas Vasiliou as COSTAS
Popi Avraam as ELEFTHERIA
Marios Ioannou as the DOCTOR
Prokopis Agathokleous as the YOUNG MAN
Marina Mandri as the YOUNG WOMAN
Georgina Tatsi as IRINI
Andrey Pilipenko as the PAINTER
Oriana Mantzouranou as LITTLE ELPIDA
Louisa Michael as the BABY
Cyan as the BIRD

Cinematography: George Rahmatoulin /  Original Music by: Julian Scherle / Production design: Lydia Mandridou
Editing: Emilios Avraam / Sound Design: Christos Kyriakoullis / Art Director: Marios Neocleous
Costume Design: Christy Polydorou / C
Casting: Danae Stylianou | Greenroom Casting
Script Supervisor: Katiana Zachariou
1st Assistant Camera: Kyriacos Mosfiliotis 2nd Assistant Camera: Nikolas Stylianou
Make-up Artist: Kyriaki Melidou / Hair department head: Marios Neofytou / Hair Stylist: Sotiris Finiris
​Additional cinematography: Kyriacos Mosfiliotis
Sound post-production: Christos Kyriakoulli /Sound Mix: Costas Varibopiotis / Post production: Authorwave
Colourist: Alexis Kapidakis
Script consultants: Sari Turgeman, Adonis Florides, Scriptwriters Guild of Greece
International Sales: Film Republic