You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Singing Women’

Even die-hard fans of distinctive Turkish auteur Reha Erdem may find their patience stretched by this ponderous island-set tale.


Binnur Kaya, Philip Arditti, Kevork Malikyan, Deniz Hasguler, Vedat Erincin, Aylin Aslim.

Even die-hard fans of distinctive Turkish auteur Reha Erdem may find their patience stretched by “Singing Women,” an uneasy mix of whimsy, apocalypticism, social satire and murky parable set on an island being evacuated for an expected earthquake. This ponderous tale will no doubt attract some defenders, but seems unlikely to travel nearly as widely as the helmer’s prior projects, like “Times and Winds” and “Kosmos.”

Predictions of a major temblor have the authorities urging locals to take daily ferries to the mainland while they can, but not everyone on this wooded isle is obeying that command. Well-off curmudgeon Mesut (Kevork Malikyan) thinks this is just a plot to separate him from his precious possessions; his loyal, put-upon housekeeper, Esme (Binnur Kaya), wouldn’t dream of abandoning her post.

Meanwhile, horses are dying of some mysterious illness — and so, perhaps, is Mesut’s ne’er-do-well son Adem (Philip Arditti), who has torched his marriage and job, and now slinks home to guilt-trip Dad into some better-late-than-never fatherly love. But Mesut isn’t having it, convinced his offspring is simply trying to con him again, even once the island’s elderly doctor confirms a fatal diagnosis. Said medico takes an incongruous romantic interest in Meryam (Deniz Hasguler), a pretty waif whom Esme takes in after finding her cowering in the forest. Other figures include Adem’s flight-attendant wife, Esme’s bachelor brother and Maryem’s formerly abusive, newly apologetic ex.

There’s a low-key farcical edge to these romantic entanglements — all pathetically dysfunctional, particularly on the male side — while occasionally mystifying and miraculous events suggest that God is trying to teach a lesson to these foolish humans (again, particularly on the male side). But it’s all so cryptic and frequently listless that few viewers will be enchanted by experiencing Erdem in a (comparatively) lighter mood. Particularly irksome are the frequent scenes in which hammy Kaya and mostly glum Hasguler giggle and frolic like children on a sugar high, an intended expression of innocent joie de vivre that comes across as cloyingly fake.

Helmer’s usual d.p., Florent Herry, provides some beautiful outdoor shots, and the soundtrack of pre-existing compositions (several by Arvo Part, whom some promotional materials curiously suggest contributes an original score) provides more lyricism — occasionally more than the onscreen content deserves. Tech package is assured.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Singing Women'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentations), Sept. 11, 2013. Running time: 122 MIN. Original title: "Sarki soyleyen kadinar"


(Turkey-France-Germany) An Atlantik Film production in association with Bredok Film and KMBO Films. (International sales: Atlantik, Istanbul.) Produced by Omar Atay. Executive producer, Claudine Avetyan. Co-producers, Mustafa Dok, Vladimir Kokh.


Directed, written, edited by Reha Erdem. Camera (color, HD), Florent Herry; production designer, Omar Atay; sound, Erdem, Herve Guyader.


Binnur Kaya, Philip Arditti, Kevork Malikyan, Deniz Hasguler, Vedat Erincin, Aylin Aslim.

More Film

  • Atlantics

    Variety Names 10 Directors to Watch for 2020

    Before film critics start summing up the present year at the movies with a deluge of Top 10 lists, Variety gazes into the medium’s future by announcing its annual 10 Directors to Watch — a lineup of filmmaking talents who’ve stood out on the recent festival circuit, or whose movies will soon be hitting screens [...]

  • Napa Valley Film Festival Winners: 'Lucky

    'Lucky Grandma' Wins Napa Valley Film Festival Narrative Feature Prize

    “Lucky Grandma,” “The Remix: Hip Hop in Fashion” and “The Nomads” were among the winners of the Napa Valley Film Festival, which ran Nov. 13-17 in various towns in the valley. The winner of the narrative feature was “Lucky Grandma,” presented by ZD Wines, which won a $10,000 cash prize, courtesy of Meadowood Napa Valley. [...]

  • Brad Pitt stars in “Ad Astra”.

    'Ad Astra' to Blast Off in China in December

    The Brad Pitt-starring sci-fi blockbuster “Ad Astra” will land in Chinese theaters on December 6, more than two months after its U.S. debut. Directed, co-written and produced by James Gray (“The Lost City of Z,” “Two Lovers”), the thriller also stars Tommy Lee Jones, Liv Tyler, Donald Sutherland and Ruth Negga. Pitt plays an astronaut [...]

  • Fred Wolf to Direct 'Love 40'

    Film News Roundup: Fred Wolf to Direct Tennis Rom-Com 'Love 40'

    In today’s film news roundup, Fred Wolf is directing a romantic comedy in New York; Leah Remini, Chinoye Chukwu, Marielle Heller and Lulu Wang receive honors; and the topless bar documentary “Red Dog” finds a home. ‘LOVE 40’ Bluewater Lane Productions has brought on Fred Wolf to co-write and direct the romantic comedy “Love 40,” [...]

  • Doppelgänger Red (Lupita Nyong'o) and Adelaide

    Lupita Nyong'o Follows Hollywood's Tradition of Two Roles in One Film

    Peter Sellers played three roles in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 “Dr. Strangelove.” In December of that year, Variety reported that Columbia was mounting an Oscar campaign for lead actor, but was also considering three supporting-actor campaigns, for each of his characters. (They settled on one campaign, and Sellers’ nomination as lead actor was one of the [...]

  • 'Legion' TV show premiere

    Noah Hawley to Write and Direct Next 'Star Trek' Movie

    “Fargo” and “Legion” creator Noah Hawley has been tapped to write and direct the next installment of the “Star Trek” franchise, sources tell Variety. Though plot details are being kept under wraps, sources tell Variety the next “Star Trek” is expected to see Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban and Zoe Saldana returning to man [...]

  • Paramount Movie Theater Paramount Consent Decree

    Why Eliminating the Paramount Antitrust Decrees Won't Shake Up the Movie Business

    The Paramount Decrees have been the rules of the road for Hollywood since the golden age of movies, but the Justice Department’s decision to do away with directives that were hammered out decades before the rise of cable or streaming has barely registered within the entertainment industry. That’s because they are widely seen as anachronisms [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content