I discovered the 2015 Turkish film Limonata, Ali Atay’s feature directing debut, somewhat by accident on Netflix. A couple of viewings later, I am a fan. Atay has a sure instinct for deadpan visual effects, and this suits the story quite well. In addition, he and co-writer Ertan Saban have produced a funny variation on the road/buddy story.
Sakip (Saban) is tasked by his dying father to drive from their home in Bitola, Macedonia to Istanbul. His mission? To find his long-lost brother Selim and deliver him back to their father for an apology and blessing.
The information given Sakip-the decades-old address of his father’s friend-proves to be of little help. He discovers the friend has become an imam, so all he has to do is locate an imam within a neighborhood that has 166 mosques. Reporting back to his Uncle Fuat (Luran Ahmeti), Sakip remarks, “My hands are pruned because of ablutions.”
Eventually, Sakip tracks down the imam and learns that Selim (Serkan Keskin) is a footballer with a local team. Sakip catches up with him after a match and introduces himself. Selim wants no part of Sakip or his errand. Not to be denied, Sakip waits until Selim is drunk from celebrating a championship win. With the help of Selim’s tipsy teammates, Sakip puts Selim into his car and sets off for home.
Selim does not wake up until they are deep into Bulgaria. He is furious at being kidnapped, but soon realizes he has very few options (especially since Sakip confiscated his passport). The two brothers proceed to fight their way across Bulgaria, although they present a united front in the face of adversity. A bond forms between them, and you sense family reconciliation cannot be far behind.
Ali Atay makes his feature directorial debut here, but he has a long career in theater, film, and television. He has acted with both of the leads in this film on various television series. In addition, several of the other cast members have acted together in other series (for example, Saban and Ahmeti on Valley Of The Wolves: Ambush). Atay’s casting decisions are excellent, and he makes an impressive directorial debut.
This is not to suggest that I think Limonata is a perfect film. The extended establishing shot seemed out of place to me, like something that belonged in an entirely different film. Likewise a wedding sequence that I found contrived. Presented as it was, without context, I simply found that sequence a device rather than an organic extension of the story. Atay and Saban managed so many graceful, funny transitions that the few clunkers stood out.
The film’s title comes from an item of graffiti shown in passing-“Blood Is Not Lemonade”. It is just one of a number of quirky visual touches that I loved in this film. I hesitate to mention others, for fear I will lessen their impact for future viewers. My strong suggestion is, watch Limonata and experience them firsthand. This is a fresh take on a sure-fire theme, told with warmth and intelligence.
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