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Turkish romp ‘Ashes’ is a hot mess that can’t be saved by dreamy visuals

Turkish romp ‘Ashes’ is a hot mess that can’t be saved by dreamy visuals
The fantasy romance Ashes is a hot mess but the cinematography is good. (Photo: Supplied)

A Balkan fantasy-romance brings neither much fantasy nor much romance in this Netflix top-10 film we recommend you avoid.

It makes sense to release a new romance film right before Valentine’s Day, especially a dreamy Turkish romp, but Ashes on Netflix is rather strange.

A compelling philosophical question about our reality lures us in at the movie’s beginning: do our beliefs shape our experience?

A wealthy couple own a publishing company but their marriage is empty and bound to fail. A manuscript brings a spark to the couple’s life – and gets the film going. Gökçe (Funda Eryigit) starts reviewing the novel, but instead of having her mind transported to a fantasy land, she falls into the story. The lines between reality and fiction blur as she neglects her real life as a mother and wife, instead becoming the star of a novel featuring a mysterious carpenter with whom she becomes obsessed.

Ashes

(Photo: Supplied)

No love lost

Director Erdem Tepegöz took a leap of faith with this film, but he fudges the landing. Too much happens without explanation or support. There is barely any chemistry between the lead actors, which makes the audience feel disconnected and unable to sympathise with Kenan (Mehmet Günsür) when Gökçe starts suffering from fictophilia and falls for the carpenter in the novel.

But at least there’s some steamy romance in the novel-fantasy-world-that’s-really-reality-(that’s-actually-the-film), no? No. The only romantic gestures were going up an old tower, dancing on rusty poles and a date that involved eating meatballs. Where are the love letters, the sinking ships? Where are the werewolves and vampires?! What hypnotised Gökçe to make her smitten with this dead-end carpenter? Sigh! Nothing about this novel-in-a-film will make you want to fall head over heels. The sex scenes come off as rapey and cringey. None of them gives off a “leave your husband for me” vibe.

It all felt like a Valentine’s Day school event in which the miserable, love-deprived organisers try to force the preteens with pimples on either side of the room to slow dance.

A scene from the unremarkable ‘Ashes’. (Photo: Netflix)

Ashes

Mehmet Günsür in ‘Ashes’. (Photo: Netflix)

Stylish but empty

That being said, the cinematography is impeccable. The enchanting streets of Balat alert us to when life in the manuscript takes over. Some scenes show Gökçe in a bathtub, drowning in the pages she has read, signalling her exhaustion, which are beautiful and clever. But none of this is enough to save the film.

On paper, the script must have seemed incredible, but on screen, it is a hot mess. Unnecessary plot points take up so much time you’re eventually just weeping for the credits. More than 90 minutes are spent trying to explain a philosophical question that feels like it could have been googled. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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