Toll Booth

A Turkish toll-station worker tries to compensate for his monotonous routine with an overly eager imagination in "Toll Booth," the accomplished first film of scribe-helmer Tolga Karacelik.

With: Serkan Ercan, Zafer Diper, Nergis Ozturk, Nur Aysan, Busra Pekin, Nadir Saribacak, Ruhi Sari, Sermet Yesil, Iskender Bagcilar. (Turkish, English dialogue)

A Turkish toll-station worker tries to compensate for his monotonous routine with an overly eager imagination in “Toll Booth,” the accomplished first film of scribe-helmer Tolga Karacelik. Intimate feature is constructed around a pitch-perfect perf from thesp Serkan Ercan, who strikingly brings the diffident protag to life, while ace storytelling and editing ensure auds remain perfectly aware throughout which scenes are but a figment of his mind’s eye. Slightly surreal psychological portrait keeps things impressively light-footed and heartfelt, and should continue to see fests raise their boom barriers.

Impeccably anonymous in his dime-a-dozen shirt and tie, insecure 35-year-old Kenan (Ercan) looks so undistinguished he could pass for someone 10 years younger or older. Colleagues at work refer to him as “Robot” because he seems to lack any personality trait or particular desire; it’s almost a miracle his co-workers notice him at all.

Kenan’s generic looks are matched by his daily occupation: He mans one of the booths at an immense toll station, taking each driver’s ticket and cashing the toll before allowing the car to pass. A series of short, classical closeups effectively suggest the numbingly repetitive nature of the job.

Auds get a peek inside the mind of this cipher when his ailing father (Zafer Diper), who needs looking after at home, rather improbably turns up in his car at Kenan’s tollbooth. Their conversation turns to the beautiful Nurgul (Nergis Ozturk), a friendly young neighbor who looks after the old man, and it quickly becomes clear that what we’re seeing is happening inside Kenan’s head.

Key scene not only illustrates how the frail old man mentally towers over his unconfident son, but also shows how repressed sentiments can have far-reaching consequences in the real world. When a supervisor sees Kenan having his imaginary conversation on the job, he immediately transfers him to a single-booth country-road barrier.

Rather than functioning as a wakeup call, the transfer to a place where nothing happens opens the door to more daydreams. These include not only Kenan’s father, but also his late mother (seen in golden-hued flashbacks), his youth and his still-awkward relationship with the opposite sex, as personified by the sweet Nurgul and a sexy woman (Nur Aysan) whose car breaks down.

Pic beautifully exteriorizes Kenan’s locked-up fears and agonies. Like dreams, these reveries are somewhat surreal and occasionally nonsensical, but at the same time offer direct access to the character’s subconscious. Never a heavy-handed Freudian dissection of Kenan’s personality, pic remains light and even chuckle-inducing while never compromising the characters’ sincere emotions. The dignified strength of Ercan’s perf is especially helpful in this regard, though the cast is strong across the board.

Melancholy score by Cem Adiyaman helps keep things grounded while the balance between real and imagined worlds is maintained with an impeccable eye for clarity. Only slightly subpar tech credit at screening caught was pic’s sound mix.

Popular on Variety

Toll Booth

Production: A Mantar Film, BKM Film production. (International sales: Mantar Film, Istanbul.) Produced by Engin Yenidunya, Tolga Karacelik. Directed, written by Tolga Karacelik.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Ercan Ozkan; editors, Cicek Kahraman, Evren Lus, Karacelik; music, Cem Adiyaman; art director, Nadide Argun; costume designer, Tuba Atac; sound (Dolby Digital), Umut Senyol. Reviewed at Thessaloniki Film Festival (competing), Nov. 6, 2011. (Also in Doha Tribeca, Warsaw, Istanbul film festivals.) Running time: 96 MIN.

With: With: Serkan Ercan, Zafer Diper, Nergis Ozturk, Nur Aysan, Busra Pekin, Nadir Saribacak, Ruhi Sari, Sermet Yesil, Iskender Bagcilar. (Turkish, English dialogue)

More Film

  • Sarajevo, Intl. Casting Directors Network Look

    Sarajevo Film Festival and International Casting Directors Network Look to Launch Local Stars

    The Intl. Casting Directors Network (ICDN) and the Sarajevo Film Festival are joining forces to turn the popular Bosnian film fest into a springboard for regional actors looking to launch international careers. After kicking off with a pilot version last year, the initiative expanded to include a series of masterclasses with leading casting directors and [...]

  • Kristen Stewart Underwater

    Watch Kristen Stewart Fight Sea Monsters in 'Underwater' Trailer

    Vampires, ghosts and now sea monsters? Clearly there is no monster actress Kristen Stewart cannot tame. In the first trailer for the submerged thriller “Underwater,” Stewart is a member an stranded submarine crew. The trailer begins with the radio message: “You are now 5,000 miles from land and you are descending seven miles to the [...]

  • Romanian Director Catalin Mitulescu on Sarajevo

    Romanian Director Catalin Mitulescu on Sarajevo Competition Film ‘Heidi’

    A leading figure of the Romanian New Wave, Cătălin Mitulescu has had a heralded career since winning the Palme d’Or for his 2004 short film “Traffic.” His first two features, “The Way I Spent the End of the World” (2006) and “Loverboy” (2011), both premiered in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard sidebar. He also co-produced and [...]

  • Betty Gilpin'Stuber' film premiere, Arrivals, Regal

    'GLOW' Star Betty Gilpin in Talks to Join Chris Pratt in 'Ghost Draft' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Fresh off her Emmy nomination for Netflix’s “GLOW,” Betty Gilpin has found her next project. The actress is in talks to join Chris Pratt in “Ghost Drama,” a sci-fi action film from Skydance and Paramount. Gilpin would join a cast that also includes “Handmaid’s Tale” star Yvonne Strahovski. Directed by “Lego Batman” filmmaker Chris McKay [...]

  • Stephan Komandarev on Sarajevo Player ‘Rounds’

    Director Stephan Komandarev on Sarajevo Player ‘Rounds’ and His Bulgarian Trilogy

    Bulgarian director Stephan Komandarev earned critical acclaim for his 2017 feature “Directions,” which was selected for Cannes’ Un Certain Regard sidebar. The first installment in a planned trilogy about the social inequality and moral ills plaguing both Bulgaria and Europe at large, the film followed six cab drivers over the course of 24 hours as [...]

  • Meryl Streep Best Movie Lines

    HBO Max Lands Steven Soderbergh's Next Film Starring Meryl Streep

    HBO Max has picked up Steven Soderbergh’s next film, the comedy “Let Them All Talk” starring Meryl Streep. Joining Streep in the ensemble cast are Candice Bergen, Dianne Wiest, Lucas Hedges and Gemma Chan. The screenplay was written by short story author and MacArthur Fellow recipient Deborah Eisenberg. It’s the story of a celebrated author [...]

  • Bruce Springsteen FYSEE Opening Night with

    Bruce Springsteen Drops Introspective Trailer for 'Western Stars' Film

    While initial reports about Bruce Springsteen’s forthcoming documentary around his recent “Western Stars” album said that it would essentially be a concert film, the first trailer for it, which dropped today, suggests it’s going to be a more introspective outing, more in line with his autobiographical performances at “Springsteen on Broadway” in 2017 and 2018, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content