My Father’s Violin review: Andaç Haznedaroğlu’s film plays like a symphony of life

Engin Altan Düzyatan, Belçim Bilgin’s stelar show, child artiste Gülizar Nisa Uray’s innocence, and gripping music makes the Turkish emotional drama an endearing watch on Netflix.

Rating: 4 / 5

Belçim Bilgin (l), Gülizar Nisa Uray (C), and Engin Altan Düzyatan, in My Father’s Violin [2022]

By Mayur Lookhar

Just like music, good content, too, increasingly, needs no language. The streaming apps have enabled a subscriber to pick from an array of global content. Turkish TV shows have made a mark in Indian entertainment spaces too.  Pardon us, but it’s taken a bit long to get hold of our maiden Turkish film, courtesy streaming giant Netflix.  We bumped into the trailer and then quickly streamed filmmaker Andaç Haznedaroğlu’s My Father’s Violin [2022], original Turkish title Babamin Kemani.

A good story with real emotions is enough for us to be no slave to sub-titles. Not that we didn’t need them here, but the heartening human interest drama struck a deep chord with the noble being in us.

Andaç Haznedaroğlu’s film tells the story of Özlem [Gülizar Nisa Uray], an 8-year-old poor child who is left orphaned after the demise of her father Ali Reza [Salim Erdogan], a street artiste (violinist) in Turkey. Her mother had died whilst giving her birth. Few days before his death, Reza reconnects with his younger brother Mehmet [Engin Altan Düzyatan], an acclaimed musician, and requests him to look after his daughter after he is gone. The bitter past though has severely dented the sibling relationship with Mehmet not really keen to oblige his brother’s wish.  A reluctant Mehmet lets an equally reluctant Özlem into his house.  Though an acclaimed artiste, but like many artistes. Mehmet the maestro has his ego, bitter past and inner demons to conquer.

Haznedaroğlu’ s musical is a heartfelt tale of scarred but unbreakable human bond where music provides the healing touch. The story by writer duo of Palaspandiras and Murat Taskent shines for its simple but highly engaging screenplay, endearing music and competent acts. 

My Father’s Violin is a great introduction for us to Turkish cinema and its bright talents.  The acclaimed Düzyatan wins us over with his maestro-like act where he exhibits the trauma, pain, ego of Mehmet so convincingly.  But for an acclaimed artiste, it is surprising that he only plays classic compositions, but has no original composition of his own.

Belçim Bilgin delights us as Suna, Mehmet’s wife who takes an instant liking for the adorable child.  They are tied by the hip, but their relationship has its ugly moments, sacrifices.  Frail ties, trauma often sees an artiste cling to music/arts and strive for perfection, but no symphony can cover the emptiness, the hollowness inside. A Mehmet is a classic creatin here.  You feel his hurt, but there’s no condoning his self-inflicted desolation.  He may strike you as a self-centered person too but the scars make Mehmet quite a subdued character. Truth be told, not just an artiste, but this emptiness exists in most beings. Despite their individual desires, ambitions, hurt, Özlem, Suna and Mehmet are like the strings of a violin that cannot be set apart.

A still from My Father’s Violin [Gülizar Nisa Uray]

Little Gülizar is simply adorable and you just can’t take your eyes off her beauty, innocence.  Ah, we don’t know why, but the sight of a little girl playing a violin has always felt divine.  Gülizar turns the streets of Istanbul into her musical playground serenading with her talent and charming us with her bright smile.  She maybe a tiny tot, but Özlem can hold her own against the big fellas.  Shortly after leaving the social services office, the little girl refuses to step inside her uncle’s household opting to sit outside. When Suna asks her what is she doing here, Özlem tells innocently, “I’m waiting for my taxi”.  Later when Mehmet tells her niece to get off from the rehearsal stage, the peeved child says, “I don’t even need a stage to play”.  Then as Mehmet performs in a fine dining restaurant, Gülizar jumps off her seat, picks her hat and calls the esteemed diners to generously donate tips.  And the most heartening scene is when a starving Özlem takes to the street playing a violin to earn some money to fill her belly.  Perhaps directors lose a little grip on Gülizar towards the business end but one is never overtly critical of a child.  What’s impeccable though is the chemistry between Özlem and Mehmet.  This bond is frosty to begin with but the ice melts in due course of time.

Haznedaroğlu is blessed with a fine story but it’s the casting and her matured direction that makes My Father’s Violin a beautiful emotional drama. The melodrama is backed by the right appropriate music where the composer doesn’t repeat any popular composition.  The stage/street musical acts are well shot, edited and importantly, very soothing.

Perhaps clipping the authority of the Social Services Department could have saved one too many tearjerker moments, but it doesn’t take away from the film’s theme and core message – love, compassion, harmony.  In its own little way, the film pays tribute to the countless street artistes not just in Turkey but across the globe.

We are humbled and enriched by this beautiful experience that stirred the humanism in us.  Not all can play, but one surely can tune into My Father’s Violin.  

Click here to watch the trailer of My Father’s Violin.

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