Nobody's Home (Koksuz): Venice Review

Koksuz Nobody's Home La Biennale di Venezia - H 2013

Koksuz Nobody's Home La Biennale di Venezia - H 2013

A solid if not particularly flashy domestic drama.

Turkish female director Deniz Akcay's domestic drama, her feature debut, stars actors and real-life mother and son Lale and Savas Alp Basar.

A Turkish teen tries unsuccessfully to step into his late father’s shoes in Nobody’s Home, the effective directorial debut of female Turkish filmmaker Deniz Akcay.

A precisely engineered and realistically played domestic drama that focuses on how a Turkish clan tries to redress itself after the death of its paterfamilias, Nobody’s Home sees a 17-year-old son struggle to take on the role of the head of the family, for which he is evidently too young, leading to problems with not only his mother but also his older and younger sister.

Beyond home turf, this Venice Film Festival selection is a solid if not particularly flashy festival fare.

In the film’s first reel, the rebellious and still underage Ilker (Savas Alp Basar) tries to escape with the family car, taking his younger sister, Ozge (Melis Ebeler), along for the ride. It’s not the first time this has happened, to the sigh-inducing exasperation of the kids’ mother, Nurce (Lale Basar). The clan’s eldest daughter, Feride (Ahu Turkpence), feels the need to assert herself as the head of the family either because she’s become the de facto breadwinner -- she’s the only one with a full-time job -- or because she senses that Ilker is incapable of filling the void left by their father.

Tensions come to boil between the different family members several times, with Ilker at one point moving out of the family apartment to stay with a classmate (Mert Bostanci), whose mother (Mihriban Er) becomes an object of interest -- affection would be too kind a word for the rough-and-ready intercourse the two end up having.

Though occasionally Akcay’s screenplay either skirts facile Freudian territory, such as when the teen and his friend’s mother have sex on the birthday of Ilker’s Mom, or threatens to devolve into soapy antics (notably its calmly played but contents-wise over-the-top ending), the tone is generally quite straightforwardly dramatic, with the naturalistic acting and modest but solid production values moving the proceedings further away from TV-style melodrama.

That said, it does seem somewhat odd that a drama from the hand of a young female filmmaker would so clearly seem to insist on traditional gender roles, with the film offering no solution for the absence of the father, only chaos, and Feride deciding she needs to marry a nice but not exactly stunning older colleague (Sekvan Serinkaya) in order to stabilize the mess that her life's become since her father's death.

Newcomer Savas Alp Basar, the real-life son of Lale Basar, has the flashiest role and duly impresses, though Ebeler and Turkpence and the rest of the ensemble are also strong.

Venue: Venice Film Festival (Venice Days)
Production companies: Zoe Film, Kirmizi Panjur, Mars Production, Re Produksiyon
Cast: Ahu Turkpence, Lale Basar, Savas Alp Basar, Sekvan Serinkaya, Mihriban Er, Melis Ebeler, Hatice Lutfiye Dincer, Mert Bostanci, Hakan Onat, Ibrahim Erkan
Writer-Director: Deniz Akcay
Producer: Deniz Akcay
Co-producers: Esi Gulce, Marsel Kalvo, Recep Akturk, Ahmet Katiksiz
Director of photography: Ahmet Bayer
Production designer: Haluk Unlu
Music: 123
Costume designer:Mukadder Ozal
Editor: Rusen Daghan
Sales: Mars Production, Istanbul
No rating, 81 minutes.