Distant is exactly as its name implies.  This quiet, emotionally spare film from Turkey was impressive enough to win Grand Prize of the Jury and shared the Best Actor Award between its two stars at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival.  Not bad for a film in which there is very little dialogue, and probably even less happens.  By limiting the amount of dialogue to the bare minimum, writer/director Nuri Bilge Ceyland (Clouds of May, The Town) causes the viewer to pay special attention to whatever is said on screen, since it seems to take on an extra sense of importance. 

The two main characters are Mahmut (Muzaffer Ozdemir, Clouds of May) and his cousin Yusuf (Emin Toprak, Clouds of May, The Town).  Yusuf is relatively young, and lives in the country.  There are no jobs, so he decides to move to the city.  He will stay with his cousin Mahmut while looking for a job.  Mahmut moved to Istanbul many years ago and is now a relatively successful photographer.  The two are not close, but Mahmut feels a sense of familial obligation and agrees to board Yusuf for the short term.  Things do not go as planned.

Yusuf is pretty lazy and childish.  He makes half-hearted attempts to secure employment, and soon stops.  It's fine with him, because he has a place to crash rent-free.  Yusuf's mother is also ill, and him being far away is a nice convenient way to ignore repeated phone calls.  Mahmut learns that his ex-wife is moving out of the country, which again makes him feel lonelier.  At one point the tension between Mahmut and Yusuf explode.  It is shocking, because previously, the two were both so stoic and reserved.  All of a sudden, they are throwing emotions at each other, seeming to flail wildly. 

Ceyland wants to focus less on the plot and more on Mahmut and Yusuf.  Here are two lonely people.  Living together seems to heighten their sense of loneliness, since they do not communicate well with each other.  Each is prone to long, silent walks and there are huge stretches of the film where literally nothing happens.  Or, Mahmut sits and watches television.  It can get pretty dull at times, but Ceyland wants the viewer to experience the isolation that Mahmut and Yusuf feel.  One interesting aspect of the filmmaking is that Ceylon is coming from the do-it-yourself school of filmmaking.  He uses friend, relatives, and even his own apartment in the film.  His shots are sparse, they sometimes go pretty long without cutting, and the way he frames the people seems to make them appear more alone. 

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.

1 hour, 50 minutes, Turkish with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains some language, most likely at PG-13.

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