Minus One


Reviewed by: Rory Ford

Minus One
"While the subject matter is grimly earnest there's a pleasantly breezy touch to Oğuz's script."

There's a winning, brisk efficiency to veteran Turkish writer-director Orhan Oguz's drama that you suspect comes from his many years in television (his last theatrical feature, Hayde Bre, was in 2010). On a freezing cold night in the suburbs of Istanbul three municipal police officers (the more community-minded Zabita as opposed to the more militaristic Polis) are called out to oust a vagrant, Semsi, from a local arts centre. Semsi, has been so severely beaten by thugs that he's lost all feeling below the waist and has started to soil himself uncontrollably. Picking him up and bundling him into their car, the three cops brave the reeking smell - while lining Semsi's seat with old newspaper and head off into the night to find him medical attention beyond that which they can provide and a place to stay. If only it were so simple.

While the subject matter is grimly earnest there's a pleasantly breezy touch to Oguz's script. The three cops are nicely sketched with the veteran "Chief" (an effortlessly sympathetic Ercan Kesal) preoccupied with taking pictures of the homeless they encounter and uploading them to his Instgram account - and then being appalled at the callous comments they accrue. While the female officer (impressively played by the director's wife Nilüfer Açikalin) tends Samsin's wounds it is he who comes to pity her for her bitter separation and deadbeat husband. Samsin is patiently ferried around the city while the cops seek shelter for him, frustrated at every turn by bureaucracy and the failures of the social security system.

"Shall we leave him at your door to freeze?” the chief demands of one official. "If it is his destiny, he will live.”

It's a starkly depressing situation - exacerbated by Turkey's influx of Syrian refugees, who Simsin - no stereotypical noble hobo, he - literally closes the door on too.

Oguz forgoes modern cop show handheld docu-realism in favour of a more classical, clear-eyed approach that let the performances - and script - breathe so that the frustrating nocturnal odyssey continually commands your attention. This is an arresting character study rather than purely an urgent social document. The message isn't shrill but the technique with which it's delivered ensures that it resonates and while there's a certain inevitability about the end, it carries a palpable thump.

Reviewed on: 15 Apr 2018
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Police officers face a life-changing night when they pick up a semi-paralysed, mentally unstable man.

Director: Orhan Oğuz

Writer: Orhan Oğuz, Eyüphan Erkul

Starring: Nilüfer Açıkalın, Metin Belgin, Ercan Kesal, Serkan Ercan

Year: 2017

Runtime: 96 minutes

Country: Turkey


Istanbul 2018

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