Don’t Leave Movie Review: An engaging breakup tale full of complex motivations
This complex romantic story set in the modern world of relationships asks tough questions about the human mind and its motivations
The Turkish romantic drama, Don’t Leave, is an often-brooding exploration of a seemingly abrupt breakup with no sense of closure. The why gets turned over and over again in the mind of lead character Semih (Burak Deniz) as the narrative switches seamlessly from present to past and back again for answers. Defne (Dilan Çiçek Deniz), his girlfriend of many years, has decided to call it quits, leaving him to his own devices in their once-shared apartment. Their first meeting is as dramatic as the final severing of ties. Semih frequents a bar run by his friend and takes a fancy to this woman across the room. Tipsy and impetuous, he attempts kissing her even before a “hello”. Needless to say, she is livid, branding him “weird” and turning down his relentless come-ons.
Here’s the problem with Semih. He's impulsive, temperamental and emotionally all over the place. This last part prevents him from confronting the real problem at the core of his being. It’s one thing to be that way when it comes to love and relationships but such erratic behaviour extends to every facet of his life…friends and colleagues aren’t spared, either. The self- involvement is so strong that it’s either his way or the highway. His poor sense of processing emotions makes him unable to reflect in a healthy manner and be objective about his flaws. And when he knows he’s gone wrong, expect a grand gesture instead of an apology. He is a cliché, an arresting, attention-seeking one, all the same. Explains why everyone has a high threshold for his confounding antics.
Director – Ozan Açiktan
Cast – Burak Deniz, Dilan Çiçek Deniz, Sükran Ovali, Ersin Arici, Berrak Tüzünataç, Ceyda Düvenci
Streaming On – Netflix
The film is a deep dive into the central character’s psyche as he comes to terms with his failed relationship. One of its most impressive aspects is the manner in which Ozan Açiktan’s story moves back and forth without so much as a blip being registered. The switch is sometimes so subtle that it takes a while to differentiate between now and then. A dry-cleaning store, a brief conversation, a small snippet of everyday life, is enough for Semih’s mind to drift to his time with Defne. Memory and memory bias are the two cornerstones of Don’t Leave. Defne is never shown in the present, existing only through Semih’s memory. This technique used by the director and screenwriter (Sami Berat Marçali) is both engaging and powerful. Semih’s false sense of pride comes in the way of him contacting Defne. There are pressing matters at play but he chooses to pretend that all is well (if she has moved on, so can I). And yet, when her name is brought up, he is keen to know what she’s been saying, what she’s been posting, and so on. His forced causal tone has nobody fooled. There is a manipulation to Semih that is witnessed in a variety of settings. Whether or not he’s aware of his problematic behavioural patterns isn’t made crystal clear. Despite possessing immense artistic skill and some charming personality traits, he shows up only when he wants something badly. It’s always on his terms, with no regard for the other person. This is most apparent when it comes to the women in his life (friends and colleagues who exhibit much attraction to the man). A brief chat with a close female colleague sums him up perfectly. Semih has just received a tearful call from Defne about her grandmother’s passing. He sounds appropriately sad and empathetic but wiggles his way out of attending the funeral, saying there’s an important meeting at work. His colleague states that he never attends meetings and asks why he isn’t going. He mentions he isn’t “good with funerals, crying and all that stuff”. Somewhere in that telling statement, as he avoids difficult and uncomfortable situations involving human emotions, you understand the reason for his relationship breakdown. There is an evident lack of commitment that is central to his person. The easy way out is the only option he will choose. Defne accuses Semih of as much in one flashback.
The inability to change or put yourself in another person’s shoes is a theme that keeps recurring. Semih’s selfish behaviour is masked by a theatrical smokescreen. This complicated romantic story set in the modern world of relationships is given credence by the intense lead performances of Burak Deniz and Dilan Çiçek Deniz. The troubling psyche of its impetuous main character makes for interesting viewing. Though the last fifteen minutes fall prey to the realm of cliché, the final shot leaves some room for interpretation. Don’t Leave is an engaging film that asks tough questions about the human mind and its complex motivations.