When We Leave
This film - Germany's
selection for the 2010 Best Foreign Picture Oscar nomination - is beautiful
and sad, harrowing and tragic, uplifting and dispiriting - all at once.
And yet, I have to admit it
is also a bit heavy-handed in making its very valid political and personal
points and some of the main relationships and plot developments are a little
hard to believe.
However, the positives far
outweigh the negatives in this wrenching family drama.
The biggest of these
positives is the heartbreaking central performance by Sibel Kekilli (Head-On)
as Umay, the oldest daughter in a devout Turkish Muslim family living in
Berlin. As the film begins, Umay and her five-year-old son Cem (Nizam
Schiller) are living with her abusive husband in Istanbul.
Finally unable to stand the
abuse, Umay sneaks out with Cem to return to live with her family, only to
find that when she arrives her traditional family shuns her because the
community feels that by leaving her husband, she has shamed her family.
They also decide that her son must be returned to the father - igniting a
violent rift between Umay and her family in which she and her son move to an
undisclosed location, trying to find a new life at the same time that she
tries desperately to mend fences with her own parents and siblings.
However, every attempt she
makes is rebuked as her father and older brother insist that she has
destroyed the family reputation and has become impure.
Umay moves to a safe hostel
for women, however she can't give up the need to mend fences with her family
- a decision that constantly brings her pain. Meeting a nice, shy
German man and starting into a loving relationship (frankly, just a bit too
easily and quickly to be totally believable) only fires her family's ire.
It is a tragic
circumstance, but it is also a very common one in certain extreme religions.
Also, it is one that has been explored often on film.
However, the screenplay by
first-time director Feo Aladag takes the story into some very surprising and
interesting directions - making the film more fresh and vital than it might
Also, the central
performance by Kekilli - which won the Best Actress award at last year's
Tribeca Film Festival - is harrowing and heartfelt, a masterclass of
performance which makes When We Leave a necessary film experience.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: January 8, 2011.