‘The Blue Wave’: Film Review

Courtesy of AFI Fest
Teenage preoccupations remain little changed in a Westernized Muslim setting

This low-budget Turkish drama provides insider’s glimpse of contemporary cultural values

A young Turkish woman’s coming of age is nicely observed in The Blue Wave, the debut feature from filmmakers Zeynep Dadak and Merve Kayan. This gentle, contemporary family drama will best appeal to fests seeking international programming options, as well as educational outlets offering cross-cultural material. 

Returning home to the provincial city of Balıkesir from a carefree summer vacation by the sea, high school junior Deniz (Ayris Alptekin) immediately meets up with gal pals Esra (Albina Ozden) and Gul (Nazli Bulum) to catch up on holiday developments and the freshest gossip. The presence of newcomer Perin (Begum Akkaya), a family friend of Esra’s who’s a vivacious young gymnast, curtails the girls’ customary freewheeling enthusiasm somewhat however. Back at school Deniz gets reacquainted with Kaya (Baris Hacihan), her longtime crush who’s now a senior and preparing for university.

Deniz’s handsome guidance counselor Firat (Onur Saylak) urges her to also begin considering her preferred concentration for post-secondary study, but she’s more interested in Firat’s personal life than his advice. Vacillating between her attraction to Kaya and newfound feelings for Firat, Deniz also has to contend with the expectations of her middle-class parents and caring for her rambunctious younger sister, as well as her close friends’ frequently changeable moods and aspirations.

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Dadak and Kayan display an incisive grasp of the preoccupations and challenges facing teenagers approaching adulthood, casually yet intuitively capturing the rivalries and loyalties that alternately force them apart before drawing them back together again. Alptekin shows an assured understanding of the conflicted spontaneity that’s characteristic of Deniz’s typically impulsive behavior without losing touch with her need for the family foundation that supports her often unfocused energy.

The screenwriting evidences occasional lapses, however, particularly when dealing with subplots involving a charity event organized by Deniz’s mother and her father’s apparently faltering new business venture. Other gaps are repeatedly filled with the teens singing along to Turkish pop songs entirely unknown by non-native speakers in scenes that contribute only tangentially to the narrative. The filmmakers handle production duties with a naturalistic style that suits the low-key material and avoid resorting to unnecessarily manipulative alternatives implied by some of the more notable plot developments. 

Viewers may be surprised by the film’s sometimes mildly irreverent perspective on Islam, which reinforces the impression of Turkey as a moderate, secular Muslim democracy in a region so often characterized by religious rivalries.

Production company: Bulut Film

Cast: Ayris Alptekin, Onur Saylak, Baris Hacihan, Albina Ozden, Nazli Bulum, Begum Akkaya, Sude Aslantas

Directors-writers: Zeynep Dadak, Merve Kayan

Producers: Yamac Okur, Zeynep Dadak, Merve Kayan

Director of photography: Daniel Bouquet

Editor: Cicek Kahraman

Music: Kim Kio

Sales agent: Bulut Film

 

No rating, 97 minutes

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