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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > When We Leave (Die Fremde)

MOVIE REVIEWS

WHEN WE LEAVE (DIE FREMDE) (2010)

Starring Sibel Kekilli, Nizam Schiller, Derya Alabora, Settar Tanriogen, Tamer Yigit, Serhad Can, Almila Bagriacik, Florian Lukas, Nursel Köse, Alwara Höfels, Ufuk Bayraktar, Blanca Apilánez, Rosa Enskat, Gümec Alpay and Ayla Arslancan.

Screenplay by Feo Aladag.

Directed by Feo Aladag.

Distributed by Olive Films.  119 minutes.  Not Rated.

 

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When We Leave (Die Fremde)

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 be otherwise. 

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.

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Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: January 8, 2011.