Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Van Eck holds his own well in the central role whilst Taylan delivers a complex performance."

Gaza (Hayat Van Eck) is a bright, capable teenager who dreams of becoming an engineer. You might think that would please any father, but no. His father, Ahad (Ahmet Mümtaz Taylan) has other plans for him. Ahad is a businessman with a sideline in human trafficking, smuggling refugees across Turkey. His has already pressured Gaza into accompanying him on trips and helping him to hide the refugees; now that the boy is 14, he expects him to start getting more involved, which means confronting him with the uglier side of the process and trying to make him accept it.

It’s easy to look at what’s happening to begin with and see it as unpleasant but not too bad. The refugees are ordered around but perhaps that’s necessary to ensure that things go smoothly and avoid detection. That they have to stay underground in hot weather is worrying but might make sense for the same reason. Gaza shows them some sympathy. He not only takes them water as he’s supposed to, but plays games with the children to distract them. The refugees sing songs and try to entertain one another. But then Gaza sees one of the men who works for his father separate a woman from the others and rape her.

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It’s not the incident in isolation that does it, nor even the sense of helplessness when the woman begs for help he’s too frightened to give. It’s the recognition that this kind of brutality is ubiquitous. Perhaps it’s also the way the woman pleads for the life of her child, evidencing a parental love he hasn’t known for a long time. The film’s only tender moments come when Gaza is befriended by a refugee teenager, Ahra (Tuba Büyüküstün), whose courage, ambition and affection make him believe that there might be something worth striving for beyond all this – something more - but he has yet to realise just how dark things can get.

Van Eck holds his own well in the central role whilst Taylan delivers a complex performance as a man in many ways monstrous who is nevertheless furious when he realises that the refugees he has agreed to put in a boat have been given useless lifejackets. There’s a sense that perhaps he was once like his son, and that time and circumstance have created the monster, or at least facilitated its emergence.

First time director Onur Saylak has taken on quite a challenge, with much of the action in the film happening at night or in cramped spaces. More is not entirely successful, sometimes feeling too contrived, but Saylak handles his actors well and the slow burn approach he takes to his subject pays dividends. More is just as ugly as it ought to be.

Reviewed on: 24 Feb 2018
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Gaza lives with his father Ahad on the shores of the Aegean Sea. The intelligent kid would like to continue his studies, but Ahad sees his son’s future differently. He gets Gaza to help with his side business – smuggling refugees from the Mideast.

Director: Onur Saylak

Writer: Onur Saylak, Dogu Yasar Akal, Hakan Gunday

Starring: Ahmet Mümtaz Taylan, Hayat Van Eck, Turgut Tuncalp, Tankut Yildiz, Tuba Büyüküstün, Kagan Uluca, Ahmet Melih Yilmaz, Ugur Arslan, Pervin Bagdat, Lara Aysal, Onur Akgülgil, Amed Ali, Salih Alkan, Ahmet Mümtaz Taylan, Hayat Van Eck

Year: 2017

Runtime: 115 minutes

Country: Turkey

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