Heartsong Movie Review: An innocent, endearing and atypical rom-com
A typically romantic tale envisioned in an atypical manner. Its strength lies in its sheer innocence
This Turkish romantic comedy, courtesy Soner Caner is a breath of fresh air. And despite its soap opera-style love story, it is deeply endearing and innocent. Its beauty lies in its simplicity and the natural, true-to-life performances of the cast. This childlike beauty is captured in Hazar Ergüçlü’s face through much of the film, providing a wonderful radiance to her character Sümbül. The subplots, whether it’s Piroz’s (Erkan Kolçak Köstendil) father Mirze’s (Bülent Emin Yarar) obsession with a possibly-fictitious love interest despite his advancing years or the local shaman/ priest whose wife constantly berates him for being a fraud, are worthy of evoking a strong sense of community.
Director – Soner Caner
Cast – Erkan Kolçak Köstendil, Hazar Ergüçlü, Bülent Emin Yarar, Ali Seçkiner Alici, Selim Bayraktar, Nazmi Kirik
Streaming On – Netflix
Set in the remote Turkish countryside, it follows the story of a nomadic group of musicians led by the ever-likeable Piroz. After safely bringing back their widowed father from a would-be quest to unite with Dilo, his long-lost love, Piroz, his brother Hogir (Ali Seçkiner Alici) and the latter’s young son travel to a nearby village to perform at a wedding ceremony. A catchy Turkish ditty perpetually on Piroz’s lips proves to be the clincher when Sümbül, the bride-to-be, responds with her own rendition of the song. Sümbül is carefree and sweet, and is most uninterested in getting married to her suitor. So much so, she embarrasses him when he is unable to sing the same song in a proper manner. The wedding begins as Piroz and his family start up their instruments and break into song. Sümbül is ridiculed for being “impure” as she makes her appearance, and both sides get into fisticuffs. Piroz is smitten, vowing to return for his ladylove. Meanwhile, the disgraced groom-to-be takes Sümbül to her father, who in turn, plans to have her killed for bringing dishonour to his family.
Heartsong has sensibilities that mirror commercial Indian cinema, and yet, it isn’t particularly over-the-top. It presents this grandiose love story set in modest circumstances but its human condition element is par excellence. With elopement, revenge, honour and love-at-all-costs at the centre of its goofy premise, it is a typically romantic tale envisioned in an atypical manner. The strength of the film, its writing and its performances lies in the innocence of it all. The music mirrors this innocence and wills Piroz and Sümbül on in much the same way the former’s community rallies behind the couple. They may fight at the drop of a hat but when push comes to shove, they have their neighbour’s back. The community is no more than a few makeshift tents in the middle of nowhere, but that’s still saying something. The feeling of family, of belonging, is a theme that the film excels at. Mirze’s bittersweet longing for Dilo, whether she exists or not, is a subtle nod to companionship in old age and the resultant melancholy that comes with such a proposition.
In spite of its serious aspects, Heartsong succeeds in keeping it light. One of the funniest scenes has Piroz’s whole community calling on Sümbül’s family for her hand. Mirze, always the jocular one, attempts to woo the latter’s father through song, but his musical request for Sümbül as a daughter-in-law falls on deaf ears. The whole party receives a thrashing (not shown) when the message finally gets through, with Mirze chastising his grandson about not taking enough swings in the fight. The folk music is essential to Heartsong’s simple beauty, being pivotal in scenes involving comedy, romance and grief. The acting is so natural that it’s hard to tell the characters and actors apart. A shoutout goes to the casting director, who has gone to seemingly difficult lengths to choose the ideal fit for the production.
Erkan Kolçak Köstendil and Hazar Ergüçlü provide the narrative with an unlikely yet endearing romance with their onscreen chemistry. The latter’s radiant, emotive face sums up the overall feel-good quality of Heartsong. The dynamic between the leads is innocent to the point of being naïve, but it is this aspect of making one believe in the strange power of love that makes the film engaging and watchable. Following a linear trajectory, Heartsong pushes its themes in the simplest of ways via its principal cast and music. Before you know it, you’re rooting for the sweet couple to be united against the forces that strive to divide it.