Co-directed by Mete Şener and Kemal Uzun and written by Hüseyin Namık Üstünel, the new Turkish film “Günce” is one that starts off quite well, goes horribly wrong, lifts itself up midway, once again goes downhill as it nears the end but somehow manages to resolve on a warm and absurd note.
Starring Cemal Hünal of “Issız Adam” fame, who once again assumes a role rooted in the tradition of Turkish melodrama, “Günce” is a modern tale of a super-cool single father and his 6-year-old daughter who have to fight against the obstacles life and the Turkish health system throw at them. All in all, the concept of the story is good and the chemistry between the two leads is endearing (although at times it borders on the saccharine). However, there seems to be a lack of focus in the screenplay, as it first sets out as the coming-of-age story of a young girl and then transforms into a medical melodrama that is slightly over the top.
Cengiz (Hünal) is a radio DJ at one of İstanbul's hottest radio stations, a late-night show in which he makes philosophical ramblings on daily life with a keen sense of humor. His wife gives birth to their first born, Günce, and Cengiz becomes the happiest man alive. They don't make a lot of money, this couple, but somehow they live in a beautiful house in a nice neighborhood and own an SUV. Unfortunately, fate casts its shadow on the couple and Cengiz's wife dies in a tragic accident.
Cemal is left alone with his baby girl and must take full responsibility for raising her. For some odd reason he never receives any help from his parents or in-laws (we are not even told that they exist). A few words on the character of Cemal: I was quite impressed that the makers of the film chose to portray the kind of father who treats his child like an intelligent human being, who has a liberal mind about her future and a great sense of humor that is filled with compassion. The man does not at all mind doing housework, by the way. Honestly, the filmmakers should be congratulated on choosing to portray an unexpected kind of Turkish father, who is not authoritarian and rigid, but fun-loving and caring.
By the time Günce is 6 years old, the father and daughter have become an inseparable duo. They have a great relationship based on humor and understanding, and these especially are moments we enjoy as the man and child banter affectionately with each other. I did wish that there were more of these upbeat scenes, as opposed to some others in which we are subjected to an overdose of sentimentality. Nonetheless, this is after all a melodrama, and the target audience of this film is clearly viewers who enjoy suffering the more maudlin elements of Turkish cinema.
As we become extremely fond of this father-daughter duo, we are inclined to feel rather sad when Cengiz discovers that Günce might have cancer. This is where the frustrations really begin, as both of them try to keep brave smiles on their faces as things get even worse. Cengiz's medical insurance company won't pay for the treatment, all the doctors are inhumane and greedy, and finally Cengiz loses his job and can't pay for his daughter's treatment. The man's problems are quite understandable, especially with an ineffectual and expensive medical system, but what fails to convince is that Cengiz never asks for help from friends or family to save Günce's life. Luckily, they finally find an angel of a doctor who just might put an end to their troubles. Or so we hope.
“Günce” is a watchable film within its limits. The comforting presence of actor Hünal is attractive and newcomer Nisa Melis Telli is a gem. It is the chemistry between the two that takes the film a level higher than the run-of-the-mill TV melodrama. The direction and cinematography could have been handled more meticulously, as occasional sequences seem rushed and hurriedly finished for the film's release date. The film is a decent example of mainstream cinema, yet it has the potential to be a much better film and this opportunity was not exploited, which is quite a shame.
Directed by:Mete Şener, Kemal Uzun
Cast: Cemal Hünal, Nisa Melis Telli, Leyla Lydia Tuğutlu, Ayça Varlıer