Something Useful: Appearances can be deceptive
by Gonzalo Suárez
- The destinies of two women cross unexpectedly on a night train in the third feature film by Pelin Esmer, presented in competition at Black Nights in Tallinn
Lorca once said that "poetry is the fruit of the union of two words you never thought could go together and that form something similar to a mystery." It’s in the image and likeness of these two mysterious words that Turkish director Pelin Esmer brings together two women and their destinies on a night train in her third feature film, Something Useful [+see also:
interview: Pelin Esmer
film profile], presented in its first international competition at the Black Nights Festival in Tallinn.
Leyla (Başak Köklükaya) is a lawyer who has to take a night train to attend a dinner organised by her former classmates for the first time in 25 years. Canan (Öykü Karayel) is a nursing student who has to take the same train for a job interview. It just so happens that Canan's father asks Leyla to watch over his daughter during the journey, which will serve as a pretext for the adult woman and the young woman getting to know each other and gradually dropping their respective guards. In fact, Leyla may work in the legal profession but fundamentally belongs to the world of poetry, with a real thirst for stories, while Canan is travelling on behalf of her boyfriend to kill Yavuz (Yiğit Özşener), a man paralysed from the neck down, who has expressed a wish to die.
The film works very well initially. The director combines the reality of Canan's commitments with Leyla's desire and curiosity, connecting the uncertainty and the discoveries of the characters with images (at the beginning we see Canan fix a framed picture of two lovers at the station, we see the train travel through the tunnel towards the light and the night’s sky dotted with lanterns). The harmony with other women on the train, the stalking of the passenger at dinner ("men's hearts are daunted"), the pursuit of the graffiti artist tagging birds and the hesitation when faced with the authorities, feed the plot and help keep interest alive.
However, once they arrive at their destination, the less attractive part of the narration begins. Esmer surrenders her story to Leyla's poem, which would not be so bad if she was able to live up to the loftiness of her pretensions. Following the incomprehensible encounter between the executioner, the poet and the victim/reader/muse, the film takes a diversion, which, instead of stimulating our imagination, creates a sort of nostalgia in the audience for what might have been.
(Translated from Spanish)
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