In Darkness @ Montreal World Film Festival

There are tons of directors out there, but very few with original voices. Most films are done in a paint-by-numbers kind of way. Prominent Turkish filmmaker Cagan Irmak (My Father and Son, Issiz Adam – Alone) is a man with a singular vision and a unique way of telling stories. His latest, which will only be released in his home country in October, is a psychological drama about a 30-something man who still lives at home with his mom, who is overbearing and quite looney. The film is sometimes creepy, sometimes depressing, sometimes funny, but always interesting.

Egemen (Erdem Akakçe) is a quiet man in his 30s who lives with his mother, Gülseren (Meral Çetinkaya). It really would not be such a terrible situation if not for his mother's character. She is overbearing, paranoid and just generally crazy. Despite his patient nature she is enough to drive anyone off the edge and Egemen is teetering right on the edge. He is living in her hell. Having to deal with her fits, verbal abuse and mental blackouts is becoming too much for Egemen to deal with anymore.

For Gülseren, she adores her son and her whole life revolves around him. Because she is terrorized about the outside world she never ventures out and lives for abusing her subservient son whenever he is at home. She will not tolerate anyone coming in between her and her son.

His only haven is his job. Egemen works at an advertising agency as an office boy. It becomes his home away from hell. He enjoys his job and likes his boss Umay (Derya Alabora) even more. In fact, he has developed a school boy crush on her. This obsession soon puts in jeopardy the one thing that is keeping him sane – his work.

Part of the festival's Focus on World Cinema section, "In Darkness" is gem of a film. It is about a truly unique mother/son relationship and it has everything going for it. The story is engaging, the acting is superb and the direction is impeccable. No one makes even the slightest misstep.

Due to the wonderful acting by Erdem Akakçe and Meral Çetinkaya the film is rendered all that much more realistic because of the humanity they bring to their characters. Akakçe has that puppy dog look about him and he uses it to his advantage while portraying the mistreated Egemen. He really makes you feel the anguish he feels while in the company of his mother. It is an escape he is looking for and is willing to do just about anything to get it.

Çetinkaya has the harder job portraying the crazed mother. There is nothing really sympathetic or likable about this woman on the surface, but due to the subtly of the acting – she really could have been more over-the-top, but does not fall into that trap – you end up feeling pity for Gülseren. You realize she is crazy and cannot help her behaviour. You feel how hurt she is when she feels slighted or abandoned by her son. The interaction between the two actors is pitch perfect.

Director Irmak brings a depth to the film I'm not sure many others could have achieved. It does not become a farce or a caricature due to his skills as a director and a writer (he also wrote the screenplay). He really brings a tension to the film through his long silences, buried emotions and the conflict between mother and son. Somehow at the same time he manages to bring a little light to the film with his odd sense of humour. This makes the darkness of it easier to handle.

You leave the film wondering how many other existences, which for all intents and purposes, look normal for the outside are really anything but. You wonder about all the things that happen in the darkness that we don't know about.

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