Kagittan Hayatlar (Paper Lives) Movie Review: An unrestrained drama that leaves you teary-eyed
As heartbreaking as the climax is, Ulusoy forces the viewer to look at the story in a new light, one could even prod you to watch this film again, especially
Stark and raw best describes the Turkish film Kagittan Hayatlar (Paper Lives) currently showing on Netflix. In 'Struggle Alley in Istanbul, Mehmet (Cagatay Ulusoy), an ailing middle-aged man, runs a solid waste warehouse. One night, he finds a young boy, Ali (Emir Ali Dogrul) - a runaway looking for shelter.
Having suffered a similar fate and grown up alongside castaways and orphans, Mehmet decides to take the boy in while waiting for the mother to be found. The relationship between the two transports Mehmet back to his own childhood days. A simple story that guarantees to touch your core, the narration has a profound respect for the realities of life.
Director: Can Ulkay
Cast: Çağatay Ulusoy, Emir Ali Dogrul, Ersin Arici
Streaming on: Netflix
The existence of Mehmet, his brother (Ersin Arici), and other child workers at the warehouse are as fragile as paper. They have only each other for support, and what others deem garbage is their source of livelihood.
As Ali and Mehmet's friendship deepen, the director treats us to some heartwarming sequences by adding multiple layers to this tragic drama. For example, the gift of a garbage-collecting cart is a rite-of-passage that resembles a bicycle presented by a parent to a child. Without giving away much, the scene is a heart-breaker.
As a subject, the movie ought to feel heavy and chunky, but it is careful not to be expository. The characters get the time to breathe. For example, when Mehmet meets Ali for the first time, the latter is asked about his parents.
A sensitive conversation ensues that takes into account realistic pauses and tentative looks. But the subtlety gets lost as the narration goes on to becomes too direct. Yet the dialogues remain incisive throughout.
As heartbreaking as the climax is, Ulusoy forces the viewer to look at the story in a new light, one could even prod you to watch this film again, especially. Perhaps such final-act gimmicks are passé, but from the perspective of portraying mental health, the climax is effective and relevant.
The film also deals with drug usage among children. Unfortunately, the commentary gets a bit diluted as the topic is just a segue prop to move the script forward.
However, these are minor issues in the storytelling, and is not an indictment of the film’s emotional strength. This heartwarming story promises to stay with the viewer long after the remote control has been put down.