Umit Unal is a Turkish filmmaker prolific enough to make ten features during the past two decades. This film, his third most popular one, is also the one that’s getting the attention of festival audiences. It’s hard to judge how different this is from his other films, but for the most part it’s thematically strong. Eren (Ece Didzer) returns to her former lover Reyhan (Selen Ucer) after two decades of estrangement, which leads the latter to voice out her resentment for being the one left behind. There’s a lot of angle work here to suggest the dynamic between these characters.
Reyhan admits her belief that Eren is only retuning because of a spell she cast two decades ago. This lets them explore Buyukada, the island where Reyhan lives and where both spent their childhoods and adolescences. That exploration involves finding the woman who cast the spell so that they can undo that spell. The story takes weird detours as the original spell caster is dead, which means they have to talk to that woman’s son who still misses her. That character feels so out of place that it’s relief when they find someone (Aysenil Samlioglu) who actually helps them.
Thankfully, the film learns how to pull back and return to the core characters who are enough to carry the film. And what makes them compelling is how both internalize the homophobia around them. Reyhan points out that everyone remembers Eren and not her, which she’s happy about since she still thinks the island’s citizens will kick her out if anyone remembers what happens. Every voice rattles them when they’re together, as if those voices are a mark of anticipated violence. But they still yell at each other and spend time together in public, which is a brave enough act.