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I wasn’t sure what to expect with Head-On. I heard little about it and the cast is completely made up of unknowns (by US movie standards). Less than 30 seconds into it and I was really getting worried. A group of seven Indian musicians are next to the Bosphorus River in Istanbul with subtitles welcomes the viewer into the movie. Trust me when I say, “Keep watching, it gets much better.” While I still don’t really understand the musicians and why the movie cuts back to them seven times throughout the story, but the acting of the two main characters and the raw nature of the movie more than makes up for the somewhat confused cinematography and occasionally slow pacing.
Cahit Tomruk (played absolutely perfect by Birol Ünel – Enemy at the Gates) is a native born, Turkish immigrant living in Germany and slowly dying from his destructive life style. In a moment of insanity (or clarity), Cahit literally takes his life Head On b driving his car into a wall. His attempt at suicide gets him a short stay at a mental hospital where he meets Sibel (in my opinion a Turkish look-a-like to Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sibel Kekilli is a former porn star who has since gone on to be very successful with multiple TV-series and movie appearances). Needing a way to move out of her parents house, Sibel decides to convince Cahit to marry her since her family would only approve of her marrying a Turk. Of course a marriage developed out of need and not love has its difficulties and as a result, the two have a difficult time with the arrangement.
It wouldn’t be a movie without the cliché change of heart by the main characters while outside circumstances prevent them from enjoying each other. Unlike most Hollywood romantic dramas, Head-On doesn’t take the easy road. Instead it keeps building the characters and the tension. AT no point did I feel that the movie was going to end the way I wanted it to, yet I was happy with where the plot was going.
The dialog is minimal and easy to follow even with subtitles, the acting is great and the story, while somewhat predictable, is enjoyable and well told. On top of being a great romantic drama, Head-On serves as a great insight into the cultural aspects of Turkish families and the issues that come along with their culture and belief in family and honor. The filming is dark and sometimes framed in a way that seems against convention. More than a few times I felt like I was watching a David Lynch move, but with a linear plot. This movie won’t be for everyone and may be too violent or too artsy for most casual movie goers, but if you want to see a great foreign movie, Head-on should be on the short list.
Other movies that I was reminded of for many different reasons: