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Aydin Dogu Demirkol, left, and Hazar Ergüçlü in The Wild Pear Tree.

  • The Wild Pear Tree
  • Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
  • Written by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Akin Aksu and Ebru Ceylan
  • Starring Aydin Dogu Demirkol
  • Classification N/A 
  • 188 minutes

rating

Turkey’s entry to the 2018 Oscars, The Wild Pear Tree, is an Eastern European version of The Graduate – if The Graduate were dour, without sex and three hours long. Sinan (Aydin Dogu Demirkol), finished with university, returns to his small village hoping to find money to publish The Wild Pear Tree, his “quirky, autofiction meta novel.” The problem, he admits, is that he’s a writer who loathes people: his father, for being weak, a dreamer and a gambler; his mother, for sticking with his father; his imam, for his pretense of holiness. (The tree is a local species, and also a metaphor – it’s prickly, solitary and misshapen.)

Gradually, via a series of long conversations about art, religion, life, love and disappointment – shot in extended takes on a new, ultra-small camera, the Osmo – Sinan grows up.

That’s not a new story, and Sinan’s not a particularly fascinating character (Demirkol’s deliberately low-energy performance is a bit too unvaried for me). But the film comes alive in its attention to detail. Its co-writer and director, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, whose film Winter Sleep won the Palme d’Or at the 2014 Cannes Festival, uses mostly non-professional actors, and fills his frames with the rhythms and realities – rusted, rubble-strewn, rutted – of village life in modern Turkey.

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“We’re all drowning in a glass of water,” the imam says. Watching Sinan struggle to stay afloat demands patience. But it rewards it, too.

The Wild Pear Tree opens Nov. 23 in Toronto, and Nov. 30 in Montreal and Vancouver

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