You know how it goes: you and your significant other quite fancy the prospect of watching a movie together, but there's nothing on at the cinema you haven't already seen or made a commitment to watch at a later date. So you decide to check out the big streaming sites – the challenge here, of course, is to find something you're both interested in actually watching. (The big dividend of the broadband age is surely that the row about picking a movie which used to take place in Blockbusters now happens in your front room.)
Our conversation basically resolved as follows: the light of my own life's favourite films all tend to feature love and romance quite prominently. I myself am much more partial to horror and destruction (often wrought by unconvincingly-realised giant invertebrates or herptiles, but even so). So we decided that a movie called Doom of Love had a better chance than most of satisfying both of us, at least a bit. Fortuitously, just such a movie had just turned up on one of the big streaming sites (directed by Hilal Saral – I should mention that the film is Turkish). Down we settled, confident in our knowledge that obscure foreign-language Netflix originals are a byword for cinematic excellence and innovation. Yes, we are very cynical people.
(We have once again reached that point in the year when the dearth of new material at the pictures – the Top Gun, Jurassic Park and Toy Story sequels are comfortably ensconced and blocking most of the screens, even in art house and independent cinemas – obliges me to share with you some views on an unreasonably obscure foreign language that's only available over the internet. Modern world, eh?)
Normally I have a bit of an issue with films that open with a flash-forward to some point in the third act, as this seems to me to be a rather a cheap and obvious way of generating tension and interest. I'm not saying that Doom of Love gets away with it when it does the same thing – the film opens with the main character coming out of a coma, and then flashes back to a year earlier – but it is certainly to the benefit of the movie, generating the only bit of suspense and dramatic energy it possesses for most of its length.
Boran Kuzum plays Firat, a thrusting young Turkish businessman with big plans for the future. Unfortunately, as the story proper gets going, his plans are coming to nothing as his agency – which seems to have something to do with selling advertising, or possibly bespoke obituaries, it's a little hard to tell – is going bust. I hate to go negative quite so early in a review, but one of the things about Doom of Love is that much of the script has a rather perfunctory, back-of-an-envelope quality about it. In a more conventional movie, Firat's business would be going bust due to some particular personal flaw which he would spend the movie overcoming, or he would be the cruel victim of circumstances beyond his control. None of that here: he may just be a rubbish entrepreneur.
Anyway, despite the bailiffs coming round and being declared bankrupt, Firat still finds the time to head off to a yoga weekend at what looks like a luxury beach resort. The film-makers seem aware that this is a bit of a stretch, and the fig leaf they provide is that one of Firat's friends has recently made a pile of cash investing in Bitcoin (one gets the sense this is just something the scriptwriters have vaguely heard about which is currently sort of trendy, rather than them knowing what they're talking about) and he's going to the weekend to tap them for debt relief.
At the yoga weekend, Firat becomes more familiar with the downward dog, but also makes the acquaintance of Lidya (Pinar Deniz, apparently a superstar of Turkish Netflix), a free-spirited singer and musician who's playing the event with her partner/boyfriend Yusuf (Yigit Kirazci). A heroically unwieldy cute-meet ensues in which a cross Lidya, taking a call from her family, hurls her phone into a sand dune, prompting Firat to suggest she gives him her number so he can ring the phone. The thing about this movie is that about 85% of it is so crashingly direct it virtually gives you concussion, while the other 15% is bafflingly obscure, mystical, and symbolic.
Anyway, there is some obligatory faffing about to be done, and so Firat has a go at being a pharmaceutical rep after his brother wangles him a job with a big corporation. However, who should be doing the corporate entertaining at the very first conference he attends? That's right, it's Lidya and Yusuf. Without seeming to give the decision much consideration at all, Firat decides to pack his new job in, embrace the exciting opportunities of being bankrupt and horribly in debt, and go on the road with his new friends as a bongo player. But what will develop out of the obvious chemistry that exists between Firat and Lidya? Could the fact that she has a disapproving and controlling family have any bearing on their future? And what's all that business about Firat coming out of a coma in a year's time...?
Well, if nothing else it's better than that Polish film about the coercive romance between the head of the Sicilian Mafia and the travel rep from Warsaw, if only because it's less actively nasty. Where it does fall down is in not having a plot as it is conventionally understood. Perhaps that is a bit unfair on Doom of Love – but it does feel like a sort of vague idea for a movie that's ended up being filmed rather than a fully-developed story. Of course it is a melodrama, but even so – characters and situations are just suggested, the film drifting blithely past them, apparently confident that the film's attractive visuals and sound metaphysical underpinnings will be sufficient to keep the audience on board.
They're right about the film being easy on the eye – it's almost totally innocuous and Turkey does look lovely in it. The 'non-threateningly attractive' folder at central casting probably has the principal cast's mugshots near the top of it, too; but they almost seem like the kind of people who think that being pretty to some extent excuses them from having to bother to act (Deniz is extremely pretty, though). It's a bit like watching high-end lifestyle commercials for an hour and a half.
On the other hand, there's that 15% to contend with – there's a lot of wofflegob about not struggling through life, and finding harmony with yourself, and all the usual sort of New Agey stuff. I could put up with this until it actually started to impact on the plot. When the plot of the film actual grows some muscles – when Firat comes out of his coma – it is initially rather interesting, because Firat has woken up in the middle of the Covid pandemic. There is some dramatic potential here, which the film does nothing with. Instead it opts for a rather baffling segment of plot where nothing turns out to be what it seems. If you don't buy into the whole yogic wisdom angle, then this is a very bland and good-looking piece of mildly romantic tosh which takes a hard left turn into mystic nonsense at the very end.