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Leylak short film review

★★★★★

Written by: #MustafaKaymak

Film review by: Max White


 


Leylak means ‘lilac’ in Turkish, and it’s a bouquet of lilacs that a girl buys for a trip her father’s promised to take her on. But after getting off work early and managing to hail a ride, he changes his mind. Faced with the reality of making the journey he waves the car away and lies to his daughter, telling her the driver was finished for the night. “We’ll go tomorrow”, he says.


This is a film about loss and the things we do to protect loved ones from pain and suffering. More specifically, it’s for the frontline workers who have bravely put their lives at risk over the last year. The unveiled references to masks give this away long before the closing title card does.


Directors Scott Aharoni and Dennis Latos fit a tapestry sized tale into a postage stamp. It's a touching homage that, in just 17 minutes, shows the impact the pandemic’s had on us personally, but also on those closest to us, from the way our coworkers rally round, to the lies we tell to shield others from the truth.


It opens with a 4-minute long shot, following gravedigger Yusuf (Nadir Saribacak) as he and his colleagues prepare final resting places en masse. It’s the sort of shot we’ve become accustomed to seeing in war films. Where the lens drops into a trench, scrambles out and then changes course when a stretcher races past. A connection that I’m sure wasn’t lost on cinematographer Laura Valladao, who deserves high praise for expertly pulling us straight into the story.


Yusuf pays his respects over a coffin he and his team just lowered into the ground. The others have already moved on to the next. He’s a good man, liked and respected by his peers and hardworking like so many immigrants making a life for themselves and their families.


Much of the film’s subtitled, with the dialect blending Turkish and English; Yusuf’s daughter Renk (Isabella Haddock) clearly having grown up in Queens, New York, where the story’s set. She’s in the throes of teenagehood: headstrong and savvy, but still very much her father’s child, clutching his hand as they walk through the city.


The closing image of Yusuf and Renk riding a train sums up the entire film in one frame. A broken family, staring vacantly, masked and holding flowers as they rattle through the city.


No politician's speechwriter has captured our collective feeling of loss like these filmmakers have. Leylak is a shining example of the power of cinema.


 


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