Netflix has begun investing more in international content to keep up with the global demand and gain the upper hand in the competition against Disney+ and Hulu. On January 21st, 2022, the streamer added a brand new Turkish film, My Father’s Violin (Babamin Kemani in Turkish), a moving and heartfelt portrayal of grief and loss and the healing power of music.
Directed by Turkish filmmaker, Andaç Haznedaroğlu, known for her films Have You Ever Seen Fireflies and The Guest Aleppo to Istanbul, the film stars Gülizar Nisa Uray, Engin Altan Düzyatan and Belçim Bilgin, among others, in lead roles. The musical drama touches upon themes of narcissism and family while emphasising the uniting power of music. A violin virtuoso, Mehmet struggles with his ambition, and his ego causes a divide between him and his pianist wife, Suna. He is also battling various inner demons, including the hatred towards his older brother, Ali Riza, who, he firmly believes, had abandoned him as a child.
The film opens with Riza and his crew of street musicians playing an uplifting tune while his eight-year-old daughter, Őzlem, dances to collect money from the crowd. As the police chase them, the little girl, whose bright eyes are filled with questions, has already learned class discrimination and poverty. Her father explains everything with the simple phrase, “everyone is a melody”. Their beautiful bond is disrupted by Riza’s sudden illness and subsequent death, leaving Őzlem thrust into the world of the unknown.
Although Mehmet refuses to acknowledge his brother after the concert, he ends up taking in Őzlem upon his wife’s insistence. It was refreshing to see Suna treat Őzlem with care and love, unlike other drama films where the female matriarchal figure is often shown as an epitome of evil. Although Mehmet is initially unwilling to take Őzlem’s responsibility, he grows fond of her when they are forced to spend time together. The love for music and violin runs in their blood as young Őzlem displays talent in playing the violin. She seems to recognise individual melodies for the people around her and wins the cold heart of Mehmet.
It is via Őzlem that Mehmet learns to appreciate his family. They process their grief together via shared silences in car rides, and musical practises. Mehmet finally learns to forgive Riza when he knows how his brother sacrificed his future to save him. The film focuses on the cathartic change of the initially flawed and selfish character who cannot love anyone but himself. The sudden arrival of the little girl and the problems caused by his fits of rage helps him have an epiphany. He successfully creates his own composition that wins the hearts of the audience.
Though unrealistic, the final scene seems to make up for the tragic premise of the film. The goodness in his heart and the love for his family finally helps Mehmet out of his composition block as he finally admits to Suna, “Family is the most beautiful composition that is made up of different notes.” Although the two films are vastly different, the broken yet beautiful relationship shared by Őzlem and Mehmet mirrors the uncle-nephew relationship in Manchester By The Sea. Music emphasises the importance of family and brings them all together- even Ali Riza, who leaves an indelible mark on his brother and daughter with his worn-out violin.
Combining melody and music with sentimentality, My Father’s Violin is at its absolute best and has attracted viewers’ attention ever since its release.
Watch My Father’s Violin on Netflix now.