out of Five
Running Time: 93
An engaging and touching drama about a young Turkish bride who moves to Austria as a second wife in a family who struggle to deal with her presence.
What’s it all about?
Ayse becomes the second wife in an already established family and makes the move from Turkey to Austria leaving behind her loved ones and learning the customs of a Muslim family living in a Western society. Umut Dag explores shifting family dynamics and values in his feature film debut through Ayse as she gets to grips with her new surroundings and Fatma, the first wife, as her role changes.
Though a kuma, a woman who lives with a married man and the rest of his family, is not very common nowadays, the idea of a woman’s place within the familial unit and society is one that is still contentious and Umut Dag never shies away from discussing the dark side of arranged marriages and the muted sadness of a duty bound wife. Outdated values are challenged by the well written female characters in the film, who voice their opinions and struggle with decisions as they try to do what’s best for their family. The traditional is vying against the modern and each character goes on their own journey.
Dag delivers uncomfortable moments with subtle glances and unspoken fears and the overwhelming sadness of a young bride forced into a marriage is conveyed convincingly through Begum Akkaya’s sorrowful eyes. Distressing moments are pointed to but veer away from being explicit, leaving much to the viewers’ imagination and adding an overwhelming sympathy towards Asye’s situation.
Petra Ladinigg’s mature and insightful screenplay weaves together many different themes extremely well. She overlaps stories but is never over indulgent in telling them, leaving the viewer to work out exactly what’s happening and making sure the narrative never goes where you expect it to. Furthermore, the compassion and frustration felt by the women is expertly crafted through the claustrophobic settings and brilliant performances.
Begum Akkaya as the kind-hearted and naïve Assya delivers the emotional pull needed to sympathise with her confusing and unfair situation. Nihal Koldas also packs an emotional punch as the first wife in the family who is struggling with the shift away from main caregiver to not only her husband but her children. A fiery passion bubbles underneath the surface of the cross-cultural thematic and gender politics as the story unfolds with some shocking and unexpected moments due to Dag cleverly lulling the viewer into a false sense of security.
Kuma glides along at a quick pace and never spoon feeds the viewer providing an engaging drama that is unafraid to deal with difficult issues and gender politics, and as a result it is sure to evoke an emotional response.