Stuck Apart Film Review
Directed by Durul Taylan and Yağmur Taylan, Stuck Apart (2021) is a Turkish dramedy that explores existentialism through the means of comedy. Recently released by Netflix, Stuck Apart (or Azizler in Turkish) follows Aziz, a middle-aged man consumed by a midlife crisis as he struggles to keep his act together. Dissatisfied with his life, Aziz tries to find solace as he drifts further apart from his ordinary job, lonely friends, and unruly family. His appetite for solitude grows every day, entrenching himself deeper and deeper into an existential sinkhole. It's a cycle he can't escape. In a desperate moment, Aziz seizes an opportunity that could change his life forever, but do the means justify the end?
Stuck Apart has a promising premise, but it's a film that drags its heels with a sluggish pace and uninspiring dialogue that falls short of motivating audiences to invest. Existentialism is a difficult subject to depict without running the risk of driving the audience to their own existential crisis, treading a fine line between thought-provoking and bleak. This dilemma is why comedy as a genre is a favourable avenue for filmmakers to explore the nuances of existential dread. Bearing this in mind, comedy has to be quick to resonate. The film’s absurdist tone and unconventional narrative is endearing, but its peculiar rhythm becomes an echo of a drum that never seems to find silence.
The surreal dream sequences and nonlinear form is a unique insight into the conundrums of Aziz’s life, moulding the film’s experimental story arc to the incoherence and unpredictability of Aziz’s situations. Along with Aziz, Stuck Apart seems intent on endurance, rather than resolution. That said, Stuck Apart’s misguided angle for dark comedy could easily be construed as a quirky attempt to disguise a numbing plot with no real excitement or anticipation.
The cast performances are encouraging, and memorable characters are what drives this story. Aziz’s bratty and deadpan nephew (played by Göktug Yildirim), is a monstrous but hilarious little tyke, with his outrageous threats, f-bombs, and demands. There’s comedic potential within the whole cast, and genuine laughs to be had out of hallucinations, hot tub incidents, and cinema’s longest break-up scene.
Bilginer's performance as Erbil, Aziz's widowed colleague, is a notable and profound portrayal of a man overwhelmed by the fog of grief, grounding the film's unanchored structure with solemn emotion. Aziz's midlife crisis is a far cry from the Western trope of unfulfilled forty-somethings who feel they've wasted their lives, setting out to find purpose for their next chapter. Stuck Apart's approach is far more honest and nihilistic, suggesting that life itself is a waste, and that we leave nothing of substance behind when we die.
The film’s tonal glumness is contagious, and the lack of personality within the script doesn’t compensate for the tediousness of a story that leaves us with even more uncertainty, not comfort or closure. If it had been any other year, the film’s thematic commentary on mortality wouldn’t be so noticeable, but given the spiralling events of 2020, it’s an unsettling film with too many flaws to redeem itself.
Stuck Apart, with its offbeat one and faux inspirational quotes, stumbles across the finish line with flat dialogue and scattered comedic gags. The film’s message of mortality and identity manages to transcend the film’s snail pace, but its potential and impact is lost, chipped away by the corrosion of time.