Köksüz: When a family falls apart

Köksüz: When a family falls apart

Emrah Güler
Köksüz: When a family falls apart

Haunting family drama ‘Köksüz’ (Nobody’s Home) follows the lives of a broken family, trying to make sense of their lives after the sudden death of the patriarch.

Cinema loves dysfunctional families. Some of the best films on dysfunctional families that resonate the most with the audience are not the ones that try to pinpoint the problems to specific reasons, but that suffice to show the quirks, the tension, the feuds in all their nakedness. Some of the best examples that come to mind are Noah Baumbach’s “Margot at the Wedding,” Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums” or the Robert Redford classic “Ordinary People.”

As far as dysfunctional families go, Turkish cinema tends to be too dark, trying too hard to define and solve the problems, and more often than not, happy to attribute problems to deep secrets in the attic. Far from this picture and likely to resonate with the audience is this week’s new release, Deniz Akçay Katıksız’s award-winning debut feature “Köksüz” (Nobody’s Home).

This haunting family drama follows the lives of a broken family, trying to make sense of their lives after the sudden death of the patriarch. Nurcan (Lale Başar) is the neurotic mother of this middle-class family whose definition of parenting is far from the ideal. Refusing to take responsibility, avoiding confrontations, bossing around her children, Nurcan directs her frustration towards an obsession in cleaning. Cocooned in her house, watching TV and cleaning are her only distractions. Those, and showing apathy to her children.

Her oldest is Feride (Ahu Türkpençe), burdened by the responsibilities of taking care of the family as she unwillingly fills the position of the father. In her 30s, Feride finds it difficult to have a life other than the imposed role of the patriarch. İlker (Savaş Alp Başar), at first glance, is your typical rebellious teenager, skipping school, experimenting with alcohol and more, and constantly fighting with his mother. Further into the movie, you realize that love, affection and the much-needed approval is what he is yearning for.

Awards to impeccable performances

Nurcan’s love for her son and the dysfunctional relationship between the two are further put to the test as İlker finds a point of comparison, his friend’s mother. The most centered among all of the family members is the youngest daughter Özge (Melis Ebeler). Özge instinctively knows the formula for bringing the family together, a healthy communication and display of love. She desperately wants things to be better in the family and, unlike the others, she knows the solution wwill not come through fighting.

As drama and constant fights ensue, the family falls deep into a crisis that becomes harder to mend by the day. At the end of her tethers, Feride finds the only escape from the asylum that is her family is marrying off to the closest prospect (Sekvan Serinkaya). Feride’s decision to leave quickly breaks the already-fragile familial bond, sending them into a downward spiral and an urgent need for confrontation.

Akçay Katıksız chooses to reveal a portrait of the family, with its frustrations and communication gridlocks, not through big plot twists, but through interactions among its characters, and with some loud, some quiet moments. In her debut feature, Akçay Katıksız shows that she is a true actors’ director, getting impeccable performances from all of its actors. There are scenes where she lets her camera wander around the faces of the characters, with no dialogue but to a haunting effect.

The testaments to the actors’ superb performances were the awards “Köksüz” won in last year’s Adana Golden Boll Film Festival. Lale Başar and Ahu Türkpençe had shared the Best Actress award, Melis Ebeler won the Best Supporting Actress award, and the real-life son of Başar, Savaş Alp Başar was announced as the Best Newcomer. The film also won a special prize, as well as Best Debut and Audience awards at last year’s Istanbul Film Festival. Don’t miss this haunting family drama.