Veteran director Yavuz Turgul (“The Bandit”) returns after a nine-year absence with “Lovelorn,” a magnificently thesped, engrossing meller about the collateral cost of altruism. A newly retired teacher (Turgul regular Sener Sen) comes home to Istanbul after a 15-year teaching stint in a poor Kurdish village and encounters bitter offspring, a changed city, and an alternate, darkly problematic family. Solid but traditional fare racked up respectable B.O. on home turf and received scattered release abroad, but this official Turkish entry in the Oscar sweepstakes would need at least a nomination for a chance at wider distribution.
Upon his arrival back in Istanbul, the gentle, bookish Nazim (Sen) meets up with his old cafe-haunting buddies, most memorably with Takoz (Sumer Tilmac), a fearless bull of a man who offers to lend him his taxi at night until Nazim’s pension kicks in.
Soon Nazim, cruising the unfamiliar streets of the city, finds himself the chosen driver and protector of Dunya (Meltem Cumbul), a nightclub hostess who has run away from her abusive husband with her young daughter.
In some ways, “Lovelorn” is reminiscent of the Om Puri-dominated “My Son the Fanatic,” spotlighting a charismatic, elderly cab-driving hero who is completely alienated from his own progeny and improbably befriends a woman of dubious virtue. But whereas in “Fanatic,” the monstrously ironic parent-child relationship predominates, here Nazim’s growing involvement with Dunya, her little girl and her troubled, jealous young husband Halil (Timucin Esen) takes center stage. Nazim’s disaffection from his own grown son and daughter is linked but peripheral to this substitute, even more dysfunctional family.
The magnetism of Turgul’s well-delineated characters lies in their ability to suggest deep, conflicting emotions and the unexpected moral fallout that results. Turgul’s characters tend to be generous and impulsive. They rarely weigh the consequences of their nobility or unbridled passion.
Turgul’s magisterial visual style opens up the moment to other possibilities, roads not taken. Thus the camera’s linear propulsion as it tracks the jealousy-deranged Halil’s stalking of Dunya is stopped short by Nazim’s protective cronies as they surround the distraught Halil. As he speaks of his torment and they begin to listen and interact, a surprisingly reciprocal, communal camera-movement replaces the menacing tracking-shot.
Tech credits are ace throughout.