Today’s Around the World with Netflix offering is a sentimental Turkish weeper about an adorable child, his dying mom and the man she pursues so that she can leave her son “In Good Hands.”
If the film, titled “Sen Yasamaya Bak” in Turkish, sounds like a maudlin and cliche-ridden “dying mom” movie, it pretty much is. But there are almost enough variations from formula to make it worth a look. Just don’t forget your hanky.
Melisa, played by Asli Enver of “My Brother,” is that single mom, an Istanbul waitress whose whole life revolves around five-year-old Can (Mert Ege Ak). They spend all their time together, so much so that he can’t bear to start school and she can’t bear to force him to go.
But when we meet her, she’s just been told she has five months to live. She shrugs, fires up another cigarette, and saunters toward her future.
Her waitress pal Fatos (Ezgi Senler) mentions she’d be happy to take on the responsibility of raising a child. But both agree that maybe a man might be a better choice. Melisa backs into that idea by setting her cap for a rude rich guy (Kaan Urgancioglu of TV’s “Jack Ryan”) they run into at a coffee shop.
Rude guy calls her annoying kid “The Devil,” buys the last pastry that the kid has said he wanted, and is next seen on the cover of a magazine as Turkey’s bike magazine tycoon, the “Bike Whisperer (groan).” Melisa sets her cap for Firat, because anything’s better than breaking the news to her little boy.
“Nothing will happen to you,” the clingy kid is already saying (in dubbed English. or Turkish with subtitles). “What did I do wrong?” Yes, he’s worried that he’ll lose her and that it will be his fault.
The “romance” starts out tetchy and dismissive, but she finds ways to disarm and surprise Firat. The kid is a bit of a nightmare, with no plans to share his mother. But buy a cute Japanese spitz that he can walk and play with and he can be won over.
But we all know how this is going to end, if not exactly why and when.
Director Ketche finds inventive ways to get inside Melisa’s head, nightmare sequences involving her favorite form of art (she paints over the backs of assembled jigsaw puzzles). The script by Hakan Bonomo has sentimental touches and a few soap-opera-worthy twists that sit right on the edge of “Oh, come now.”
Enver lets us see something of Melisa’s soaking up what little life she has left, and Urgancioglu makes a sturdy idealized hunk to hang this female wish fulfillment fantasy on.
“In Good Hands” is better production-designed than some Turkish Netflix fare. This is an Istanbul that feels lived-in, if a tad tidier than documentaries about the city show. Money and bars and sex and leggy ladies with tattoos and hunky Firat’s Camaro combine to make this feel like a Lifetime Original Movie in Turkish.
Yes, it’s dull and mostly-predictable. But it’s more of a near miss than you might expect.
Rating: TV-MA, sexual situations, drinking, smoking, some profanity
Cast: Asli Enver, Kaan Urgancioglu, Mert Ege Ak and Ezgi Senler.
Credits: Directed by Ketche, scripted by Hakan Bonomo. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:44