Butterflies

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Butterflies
"Turkish director Tolga Karaçelik shows a fine ear for family dynamics as well as a joyously off-the-wall sense of humour that ensures even though we've taken similar movie road trips in the past, this one feels fresh." | Photo: Tolga Kara

Expect the unexpected in this story of a trio of siblings that never quite goes the way you think it might, which took home the World Cinema Dramatic Grand Jury prize at Sundance and is in competition at Istanbul Film Festival next week.

Turkish director Tolga Karaçelik shows a fine ear for family dynamics as well as a joyously off-the-wall sense of humour that ensures even though we've taken similar movie road trips in the past, this one feels fresh.

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Cemal (Tolga Tekin), Kenan (Bartu Küçükçaglayan) and Suzan (Tugce Altug) may have been close once upon a time, back when their mum told them a bedtime story about butterflies, but they've been living separate lives in different cities for decades. Karaçelik sets the absurdist tone from the start, as we see Cemal, a wannabe astronaut, set his spacesuit alight on a TV show, while wearing it, to emphasise how desperate he is to go into space. Meanwhile, Kenan's career as a voiceover artist isn't exactly hitting the stratosphere either, while the atmosphere on the Moon is fractionally more welcoming than the one between teacher Suzan and her egocentric husband.

When Cemal receives an unexpected call from their long-estranged dad, he sets about trying to round up his siblings - about as easy as herding cats - for a road trip back to their remote Turkish village. The reasons for the family's separation will become gradually apparent during the film and offer a welcome amount of emotional heft that offsets the more goofish comedy. Three is a magic number for Karaçelik as he puts the odd number to work, showing how among families of three siblings, situations almost always descend into two against one, although where the power balance lies between the various allegiances changes almost minute to minute.

What could have simply been a road trip movie, reaches its destination - but not its conclusion - a lot quicker than you might expect, but before you can say, "Stop!. Step away from the chickens!" Karaçelik begins to show the trauma underlying the comedy, somehow managing moments of perfect poetry into the bargain. His tonal shifts may be a constant source of surprise, but they never jar in the wrong way, so that somehow an imam experiencing a crisis of faith or an undiscovered family secret slot satisfyingly into place. There's a real pleasure to be taken from the fact he allows his characters to remain messy physically and mentally even as they also find an untidy but believable sort of shared peace.

Reviewed on: 04 Apr 2018
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Three estranged siblings travel back to their home village after a call from their father.

Director: Tolga Karaçelik

Writer: Tolga Karaçelik

Starring: Ezgi Mola, Serkan Keskin, Bartu Küçükçaglayan, Ercan Kesal, Tolga Tekin, Hakan Karsak, Tugce Altug

Year: 2018

Runtime: 117 minutes

Country: Turkey


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