THE WILD PEAR TREE (AHLAT AGACI)  (director/writer: Nuri Bilge Ceylon; screenwriters: Akin Aksu/Ebru Ceylan; cinematographer: Gökhan Tiryaki; editor: Nuri Bilge Ceylon; music: Mirza Tahirovic; cast: Aydin Doğu Demirkol (Sinan), Murat Cemcir (Idris), Bennu Yıldırımlar (Asuman), Asena Keskinci (Yasemin), Kadir Çermik (Mayor Adnan Yılmaz), Kubilay Tunçer (Ilhami), Akin Aksu (Imam Veysel), Öner Erkan (Nazmi), Hazar Ergüçlü (Hatice), Serkan Keskin (Suleyman), Tamer Levent (Grandfather Recep), Ahmet Rıfat Şungar (Ali Rizar), Özay Fecht (Grandmother Hayriye), Ercüment Balakoğlu (Grandfather Ramazan); Runtime: 188; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Zeynep Ozbatur Atakan, Fabian Gasmia, Stefan Kitanov, Alexandre Mallet-Guy, Labina Mitevska, Olivier Pere; Cinema Guild; 2018-Turkey--France-Germany-Bulgaria-Macedonia-Bosnia-Herzegovina-Sweden-in Turkish with English subtitles)

"For the patient viewer it's a visually stunning film filled with both comical and magical moments."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It's as tasty a film as enjoying a wild pear is for breakfast. An epic character study coming-of-age tale that's set in Turkey. It follows a flawed young aspiring writer Sinan Karasu (Doğu Demirkol), who returns home to face some bitter truths about himself. The brilliant Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylon ("Winter Sleep"/"Distant") provides cogent thoughts about such things as the universe, human experience and life itself. The drama is heavy on conversations, overlong at over 3 hours and long drawn out in a leisurely pace, but for the patient viewer it's a visually stunning film filled with both comical and magical moments. The humanistic film is beautifully acted and crafted by the former Palme winner. It relates well to a Chekhov play, but is uniquely a Ceylon experience. The screenwriters with Ceylon are his wife Ebru and Akin Aksu, who also acts as an iman.

The twenty-something
Sinan Karasu is writing his first book and can’t get the autobiography published, but hopes to raise enough to self-publish a “quirky auto-fiction meta-novel” entitled The Wild Pear Tree that's inspired by his disdain for his hometown and its inhabitants (the title is lifted from his dad's saying that all the people around these parts are like wild pears: “Misfits, solitary, misshapen”). Sinan’s finished his teacher training in the coastal city of Çanakkale (the childhood home of the director) and returns to his parents' home in the small rural town of  Çan, some 90 minutes away by car, worried about being assigned to one of Turkey’s rural regions out East. He’s ashamed of his dad, Idris (Murat Cemcir), a schoolteacher with big gambling debts and engaged for years in a worthless project of trying to discover water on his property, while he maintains an attitude of disapproval to his mother (Bennu Yıldırımlar) and sister.

At home, the disenchanted Sinan anxiously wanders around, visiting his grandparents (Tamer Levent & Özay Fecht), running into former friends and most of the locals for long talks, meeting two imans (Akin Aksu & Öner Erkan), a phony literary loving construction firm boss, a famous local writer (Serkan Keskin), at a bookstore,  that he manages to tick off; and, the beautiful Hatice (Hazar Ergüçlü), someone he once fell in love with and still yearns for but she's set to marry for money an elderly jeweler. All the while Sinan's looking for funding for his book, but to no avail.

The tensions of family life come across with a sense of harshness for the unsympathetic protagonist (unhappily back home with a college degree but no job or book published, thinking seriously of joining the riot police) and the difficulty he has of finding his own path in life despite his opportunities. Ceylon also points out the vast differences between urban and country life as far as cultural things go.

Using a wry wit and detailing in exact terms the struggle his young hero is having, Ceylon's slightly melancholy mood-piece is a rewarding masterful film that deserves all the praise it's receiving. It also deserves an audience.

REVIEWED ON 5/1/2019       GRADE: A

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"