top of page

Paper Lives Netflix Film Review

★★★ Stars

Directed by: #CanUlkay

Written by: #ErcanMehmetErdem

A man stands, illuminated in pink, red and blue lighting the street, with a cap on his head and a hoodie pulled over him as well. He looks off into the distance (left) and a sack of different waste materials, like cardboard, can be seen behind him where he looks. He also has a beard and moustache; looks quite tired and glistens with rain as well as sweat from working.

“Mehmet is a cherished fellow who runs the solid waste warehouse in the neighbourhood, he helps everyone in need, especially homeless children and teenagers since he was one too.”

Paper Lives is a Turkish film that has been newly released on Netflix this month. The film covers many heavy topics such as child abuse, trauma, drug misuse, life threatening illness and poverty; yet these topics are well handled as they carry a strong sense of harsh actuality and intensity.

The acting seen throughout is the element that captured my attention the most. Çagatay Ulusoy (Mehmet) and Emir Ali Dogrul (Ali) strike viewers with an immediately impactful chemistry on screen; as their characters first meet there is almost an instant ‘click’ that can be witnessed which brilliantly solidifies the relationship between the characters before anything of a sort is purposely established. Ulusoy also pours all of his emotion into his character which really knocked me off my seat at some points during the film. This emotion isn’t exaggerated in the slightest, his reactions to scripted events are natural and the larger bursts of either anger, frustration or sadness feel genuine. Although the story itself can be labelled as a tearjerker, without Ulusoy’s performance I’m not sure I would have shed a tear. His output of emotion is very immersive and definitely offers this story a great kick of potency, as well as being paired with outstanding direction by Can Ulkay.

The acting may be the one element that held my attention through the entire duration of Paper Lives, but the cinematography (Serkan Güler) is the one element that caught my attention first and foremost – and truly did so instantly. From the very beginning of the film, the audience’s view is filled with spectacular camera angles, movement and positioning. Each shot is beautiful and unique but they are still linked together by the fact that, in each, there seems to be a skilled balance of a main focus point and the added surroundings against this. It is obvious where the eye should be led to in each scene, whether that is to a particular window in an apartment block or to a specific character in frame, however, I felt wonderfully submerged in the entire shot regardless. There isn’t any detail that simply fades into the background; people lining the streets, toy cars upon coffee tables, food cooking on a stove… everything plays a part in a shot even if this aspect was intentional or not. This perfectly builds upon the quite overwhelming feeling that such a heavy storyline provides as well.

The only negative in this film from my point of view is the choice of music (Ömer Özgür, Jingle Jungle.) This doesn’t necessarily apply to all the tracks used through the one and a half hours of the film (thankfully) but there are many points when a score is used and it appears out of place. For example, in the first handful of minutes, music is used to establish atmosphere but it doesn’t create the right type of atmosphere needed for the film, especially as an introduction to the story. To the ear, it appears more horror-film-like and really sets the scene for a pending thriller. I can understand why one might have wanted such a deep score to be used, due to the story not intending to be an uplifting comedy or anything of course, but I think that depth did stretch a bit too far to match the type of film Paper Lives actually is. The music itself is exquisite, but can only be appreciated appropriately if taken away from the context of the film.

Overall, without giving any spoilers, the ending is absolutely magnificent and highlights any subtly obscure additions in the direction, acting and writing that viewers might have briefly questioned as the events unfolded earlier in the film. But you’ll just have to watch Paper Lives to discover the specifics of this… and I recommend that you do because of the build up to an amazing ending.



The UK Film Review Podcast - artwork

Listen to our
Film Podcast

Film Podcast Reviews

Get your
Film Reviewed

Video Film Reviews

Watch our
Film Reviews

bottom of page