REVIEW: ‘PAPER LIVES’ NOT MUCH TO GET EXCITED OVER

LIAM EASLEY, TRUMPET ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR

Every now and then, I see a film that keeps me on my feet, and I can’t say that I’ve seen one that does this quite like “Paper Lives,” a new Turkish drama out on Netflix.

It seemed as if every plot point made the outcome of the movie completely predictable … and yet the film didn’t have enough runtime for all of the assumed outcomes to be executed. However, writer Ercan Mehmet Erdem still managed to tie a ribbon atop this hour and a half feature.

Centered around Mehmet, the manager of a solid waste warehouse in Istanbul, the film treks around the topic of street life, specifically how it impacts homeless children. When Mehmet finds himself taking care of a young boy named Ali, things start looking all too familiar between his life and the boy’s.

With an emphasis on the absence of a maternal figure in the lives of street kids, the film journeyed down an emotional bonding between the two characters.

 EMIR ALI DOGRUL (LEFT) & CAGATAY ULUSOY (RIGHT) STAR IN THE NEW DRAMA ‘PAPER LIVES.’ PHOTO COURTESY OF IMDB.

Put bluntly, the first hour and 20 minutes were terrible. Everything seemed all too predictable, there was something about a bucket list (because Mehmet was in urgent need of a kidney transplant due to some life-threatening condition) and Mehmet seemed to have absolutely no brain whatsoever, as he kept getting injured and almost dying for no reason.

Also, Mehmet’s character oftentimes seemed too overbearing and oddly protective of Ali, all of which contributed to the seemingly directionless plot full of characters whose development was too shallow.

On top of that, the directing was sometimes terrible. Each time Mehmet and Ali were having a bonding scene, director Can Ulkay made sure every shot was as typical as it could possibly have been.

It even got to the point where Bollywood strategies were being employed. For example, the slow-motion shot of a child and parental figure splashing water on each other, or the use of a bass drop whenever someone said something dramatic that accelerated the plot. There’s nothing wrong with Bollywood, but there’s a reason the scene isn’t noteworthy for its cinematography.

The last 10 minutes or so were reserved for the two plot twists, one of which was severely predictable. The other twist was much more interesting and actually made sense of every oddity in the film. In fact, it almost seemed as if it was added last minute to redeem the movie, but even if that was the case, I’d call it successful.

On the technical side, the movie had great lighting and beautiful color grading, especially during interior scenes. The cinematography, outside of the cheesier moments, was not terrible. In fact, it was clear that they had great equipment, or it seemed that way, as there were some very acrobatic shots.

When a film is pretty much 90 percent bad and only redeemable at the very end, it has some merit, but not much. For those who want something touching, try it out. If you need something impactful, maybe watch something else.

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