Tulpan (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner11/11/2009

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 102 mins

Impressively directed and superbly acted, this is an emotionally engaging drama that succeeds thanks to its combination of offbeat humour and intriguing characters, set against an almost impossibly bleak landscape.

What's it all about?
Directed by Sergey Dvortsevoy, Tulpan is set on the desert plains of Kazakhstan and stars the delightfully named Askhat Kuchinchirekov as Asa, a recently discharged sailor who has moved in with his sister Samal (Samal Yeslyamova), her grumpy shepherd husband Ondas (Ondasyn Besikbasov) and their three young children. Asa dreams of marrying unseen local girl Tulpan so that he can become a shepherd and live in a yurt of his own but his octopus-heavy sailing stories fail to sway her distinctly unimpressed parents (Amangeldi Nurzhanbayev and Tazhyban Khalykulova) and he's crushed when he learns that Tulpan has rejected him because his ears are too big.

The Good
Kuchinchirekov makes an engaging, sympathetic lead as Asa – it's impossible not to be moved by the sight of him staring mournfully at his ears in the mirror after Tulpan rejects him. There's also strong support from Tulepbergen Baisakalov as his Boney M-playing, girl-obsessed best friend Boni, whilst young Nurzhigit Zhapabayev delivers a scene-stealing performance as the youngest child, Nuka.

As with The Story of the Weeping Camel, there's a strong documentary feel to Tulpan, so much so that it comes as a surprise to discover that the cast is comprised of professional actors. With that in mind, there are some extraordinary scenes, such as the lengthy sequences in which Ondas and Asa deliver newborn lambs under difficult circumstances.

The Great
However, what really makes the film work is Dvortsevoy's use of offbeat humour (the donkey wrangler, in particular, does a commendable job) and some delightful character touches, such as the eldest son memorising the news each day so he can recite it to his father or the daughter constantly singing the same song and getting on everyone's nerves (the audience's included). The script is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny in places, such as when Asa gets a second chance with Tulpan's parents and jazzes up his octopus story.

Worth seeing?
In short, Tulpan is a well made, enjoyable and ultimately moving drama that's well worth seeking out. Highly recommended.

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Tulpan (12A)
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Content updated: 21/07/2018 20:39

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