Switching gears midway through a film isn’t always a bad thing.

Kostis (Makis Papadimitriou) arrives at his new home and passing holiday destination for many – a beautiful Greek Island, surviving with 800 residents in the winter months and packed to excess come summer. The local Doctor; life on the sparsely-populated real estate isn’t perfect, no more so for someone whose post-college plans haven’t gone exactly as expected.

Accustomizing himself to the tourist lifestyle once July swings by, Kostis befriends a group of travellers half his age and ready to party, in particular Anna (Elli Tringou) who first arrives at his surgery with an injured leg. After spending more time with them and acclimatizing to the early hours of the island’s nightlife, Kostis’ relationship with the crew and Anna starts to move in a very different direction.

What at first is by all accounts a nominally feel-good look at the lives of those resident on an island-getaway year-round takes a very abrupt turn to a discomforting, oft-shocking and all the more compelling narrative. The whole film falls and rises on Papadimitriou, front and centre for almost every moment, deftly handling the gradual transition into significantly more unnerving fare.

None of the other actors ever measure up to Papadimitriou and are never in and of themselves too engaging, instead playing off the film’s central figure to excellent effect. Neither Anna, her mates or the handful of other acquaintances Kostis makes on the island carve out too much of a space in the film, nor impart a real sense of their character beyond their relationship with Kostis, save the town Mayor (Pavlos Orkopoulos) in a short-lived yet endearingly earnest role.

The ending, disquieting above all else, while not unexpected nor perfunctory given the well-established, escalating progression of events, will prove very disconcerting for those who thought they were in for a nice, summer-vacation sort of film or otherwise settled too well into Suntan’s opening acts. No doubt the intention of the filmmakers, Suntan is a traversing, ambitious drama that is supremely well-executed.

Suntan is screening as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival – for tickets head to the Festival website