Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s fresh-spirited moviemaking debut is a sad, uplifting, culturally outspoken and remarkably entertaining young girls’ film.
While it’s filmed in Turkish, the French co-production is France’s submission for the Oscars’ Foreign Language Film. It should be. It speaks a touching international language of frustrated youth that anyone can understand.
In a village by the Black Sea, five beautiful orphaned sisters walk from school back to their grandmother’s. Along the way they play with classmates, climbing onto their shoulders for some frisky chicken fights, getting their school uniforms soaking wet.
Their carefree innocence is observed by a neighbor who calls them disgusting and shortly the whole conservative town is talking (the film doesn’t address religion directly but it clearly opposes moralist fundamentalism).
Grandma is criticized for raising girls unprepared for matrimony. After whipping them, she launches a crash course in old-school marriage skills. They are taken to the doctor to ensure that their virginity is intact, and their uncle calls them very bad names.
The scandal throws the girls into a frenzy. They heroically smash all the seats in the house because the “disgusting” chairs touched their bottoms. Still, they’re pushed into loveless marriages, delivered to the grooms’ families like auctioned goods.
Each of them has a long mane of hair that makes them look like foals eager to run free. The film plays as if Sofia Coppola’s dreamy The Virgin Suicides had featured a cast of untamable rebels whom the power structure couldn’t lasso.
In Turkish with English subtitles
Exclusive: The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Director: Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Cast: Gunes Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu
Rated: PG-13 (mature thematic material, sexual content and a rude gesture)
Running time: 97 min.