Friday, April 20 , 2018, 9:33 pm | Fair 55º


Cinema in Focus: ‘My Life in Ruins’

Though not as textured as Nia Vardalos' first film, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," it is an entertaining journey through the Greek countryside

2 Stars — Entertaining

The demure style with which Nia Vardalos plays her roles is appealing but repetitive. In her first film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, we were charmed by her simultaneous embarrassment and pride in her Greek heritage. Although My Life in Ruins is not a sequel, Vardalos is clearly the same character. The difference this time is that her frustration is not with her Greek family living in America, but with American tourists visiting Greece.

Directed by Donald Petrie (Miss Congeniality) and written by Mike Reiss (The Simpsons Movie), the film is modest but entertaining.

The central character is Georgia (Vardalos), who is a professor of Greek antiquity. The problem is that she has been unable to land a teaching position and is making her living as a tour guide, a position she dislikes. Georgia’s prejudice against her tourist groups and resignation to her frustrating job reveal her to be a lonely and disappointed person who is missing out on life.

The tourist group is an ensemble cast of quirky people, including a wise but grieving man whose wife had always wanted to come to Greece but had passed away before she could do so. Fulfilling her dream, Irv (Richard Dreyfuss) joins the group with far more purpose and pain than any of the others. This sensitivity allows him to provide some guidance to Georgia and others within the group.

This simple story includes a love interest for Georgia, the handsome Poupi (Alexis Georgoulis), and a villain, the conniving Nico (Alistair McGowan), who is a competing guide trying to get her fired.

The journey Georgia travels with her tour group demonstrates the importance of love. From the grieving Irv who misses his beloved Elinor (Rita Wilson), to the brooding teenager Caitlin (Sophie Stuckey), to the fighting couple Dr. and Mr. Tullen (Caroline Goodall and Ian Ogilvy), to the divorced women Lala and Lena (Maria Botto and Maria Adanez), to the uptight Georgia and everyone else as well, love is the missing ingredient.

Where the film falls morally short is in its sexual promiscuity. As is often true, love and sex become confused. Though the film ends with hope, there are no promises or commitments involved, and the hope created by the intimacy lacks foundation. It is this lack of commitment that causes trust to crumble and lives to become spiritual ruins.

My Life in Ruins is a simple comedy that has moments of insight and engaging relationships. With the beauty of Greece as the backdrop, it is a tale to enjoy for its humorous moments, but it is not a tale of how to rebuild a ruined life.


» The love relationship Georgia develops is predictable. If the story was not fictional, do you believe their relationship would last? Why or why not?

» When Irv experiences his deceased wife, do you believe the authors are describing a spiritual connection or an hallucination? Do you believe a person we loved who proceeds us in death will come back to us at our moment of death to accompany us into the unknown? Why or why not?

» The decision Georgia makes at the end of the film is based on love. Do you believe it is the right decision?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit

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