A middle-aged photographer, Mahmut, is struggling to get back to his roots of photography after having been left by his wife. His cousin, Yusuf, comes to live with him while trying to find a job down at the harbor. These two cousins are complete opposites of each other, and living together takes its toll when they become more and more distant to each other.
Not entirely familiar with Turkish cinema outside of a few stupid "remakes", I was really interested in seeing what this movie would bring. The director is one I've heard a lot about and have planned to look more into, and this seemed to be a good movie to buy first. It's often compared to Tarkovsky, but I rarely expect something of such perfection going into a film so I tried not to take that too close to heart. The inspiration from Tarkovsky is very present, and there are references, but I can't say this is up there with his stuff. That said, the existentialism in the drama shows promise from this director.
For the runtime of 110 min, the story is quite simple. It's about a photographer, Mahmut, going through a crisis after his wife left him. He tries to get back to his photography but he can't seem to devote himself completely. Things aren't made easier when his cousin knocks on the door, looking for a place to crash for a while. The cousin, Yusuf, is trying to get a job at the harbor and spends a lot of time walking around in the cold winter. The cousins try to make their living situation work, but the two are simply too different from each other: one in a crisis which is making him psychologically secluded, while the other one needs to find a job but might actually be looking for something much bigger. After a while they can't deny the distance between them any longer, and have to confront each other.
It's pretty impressive when you consider that the two lead actors aren't real actors. One is the actual cousin of the director, and the other is a friend of him. It's also shot in his own apartment. All of this is to save money, but it's very obvious that the director knows what he is doing so it's probably a creative direction as well. It works, as the two men come off as realistically flawed. I can't judge the acting completely as it's foreign, but there are no visible flaws to me. I did read a comment from a turk who disagreed with that, though. But I'll never learn turkish, so what do I know?
There is a lot of things to bring up with a movie like this, but I don't want to make this review too much of an essay, and rather focus on a few good and bad notes. First of all, I think I had too high expectations from the film. I do think it's a solid drama, and one that seems very typical for this sort of appraise from reviewers. I wasn't entirely convinced, though. I had a hard time really feeling that distance between the cousins that was implied. And that being the main plotline, it weakens the overall movie. But at the same time I think the individual stories were a lot more interesting. Mahmut who just seemed to wanna watch TV all day, and Yusuf who wants to walk out in the snow. They're interesting people to try and study, but in the end I found very little in the two. It might be a movie that requires more viewings, I'm sure, but I'm more often than not a one-view-reviewer guy, as I believe we're all living in a busy world and a movie SHOULD be able to speak upon one viewing as well. It all comes down to things of circumstance, of course, but generally that's what I do. In this case I'm not even sure I want to watch it again, even though I didn't completely dislike it.
The movie has a few great shots here and there, but many scenes aren't visually impressive as much as they are simplistic for a reason. The opening scene is very simple but comes off as beautiful, so there's also the mix of that too. One scene involving a "fallen" ship was almost chill-inducing because I have such respect from large ships, and the thought of one sinking is scary on its own. That shot was probably as visual as this movie gets. That said, it's not hurt by it. If you go into it expecting something like "Stalker", then yeah, you're gonna be disappointed by the cinematography here, but it's not bad on its own. This seems to be artistic in other aspects than the visuals, and that's equally important.
I recommend "Distant" to similar arthouse nuts as myself, but it's not one of the better I have watched. Not even one of the better recent ones. It did make me more curious about the director, though, and that counts for something as well I believe. "Distant" is a story about just that, the distance between two cousins. A simple movie at first glance, but obviously filled with thoughts on life and the world. Existential thoughts that'll keep the brainy ones busy and the stupid ones bored. And not without a few moments of comedy, but mostly it's a dark, honest view. Nice to see something like this from Turkey no matter what!