Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tribeca film review: WHEN WE LEAVE

WHEN WE LEAVE is a social drama. A young woman brought up in a traditional, conservative Turkish family in Berlin is married to a husband who beats her and bullies their son. She is a repressed soul, a walking dead living far away in Istanbul. Her in-laws cannot protect her or her son from their family member who swings between rages and warm paternal gestures. How long before it is time to go?

Making their escape, Umay (Sibel Kekilli), hopes to find comfort and support from her family back in Berlin only to find opposition and a surprising reaction as she is confronted by the strict, cultural rules of the community that directly affects her parents and siblings. Her brother threatens to take her son back to his father and Umay attempts to leave the family home that becomes a locked fortress. She calls the police who escort her out, thus causing humiliation for the family.

Smart and resourceful, Umay finds a job and goes back to school. She even learns to flirt with a coworker. Yet she yearns for her family, once very close and supportive especially for her young son who eventually becomes the brunt of shunning and an ensuing custody battle outside of the legal system. Her moments of simple every day life and pleasures are small victories that turn into brick walls between her past and the present she continually attempts to overcome. Where it all can end is anybody's guess.

WHEN WE LEAVE won the Europa Cinemas label as Best European film in the Berinale's Panorama section. Written, directed and produced by Austrian actor Feo Aladag, who has a Master's Degree in Journalism and a PhD in Philosophy, this film becomes an incredible labyrinth of human emotions, beliefs, contradictions, love and loyalty. The decision when to leave comes from an internal switch that flicks off as the last semblance of defeat emerges into an indomitable spirit with a will to survive. If it makes it out in time.

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