The dreamy, scenic and sweet “Doom of Love” has the look and feel of something truly novel — a Turkish slacker romance.
But this Around the World with Netflix bauble about a young man cast adrift when his start-up obituary advertising company fails, who then falls for a singer and goes on tour with a band, unfolds like a story far more ancient. It’s more “hippie” than slacker.
It’s too slow, and while the pacing underscores the low-heat/slow-to-heat-up and chaste nature of the romance it also makes the general pointlessness of “Doom” an albatross it never quite shakes.
We meet handsome young Firat (Boran Kuzum) just as his company’s imploding. Two hundred and ten people a day might die in Istanbul, but there’s no obituary advertising money in that, he realizes.
Broke and drowning in debt and obligations, his friend and employee Melba (Seda Turkmen) suggests a solution. Her hustling, wheeling/dealing husband (Gürhan Altundasar) is rolling in cash, thanks to Bitcoin.
Ssssshhhh. Don’t tell her. That’d spoil the fun.
All Firat needs to do is tag along on their trek to this festival down the gorgeous Anatolian coast that they’re going to, and make a pitch.
But the “festival” turns out to be a yoga/meditation retreat, filled with meditative and lovely yoga instructors who make the attendees question “effort” and “struggle” and a lot of the things entangling their lives and impeding their spiritual growth and general happiness.
And once Firat spies the stunning singer hired to entertain at the event, the theatrical, romantic Lidya (Pinar Deniz), he’s converted. Or hooked. He has to know that no mere career will be fulfilling after this, not without this new light in his life.
One pharmaceutical sales job later, he stumbles into Lidya and her accompanist Yusef (Yigit Kirazci) again. Must be “fate,” Yusef offers. Or it will be, once they meet a third time. Firat makes damned sure that third meeting happens, and next thing we know he’s on the road with them as a traveling companion, adoring groupie and eventually, self-taught drummer.
It’ll only be a matter of time, a pretty LONG time, before he and Lidya have a meeting of the minds, and lips.
But there’s a framing device hanging over this young and wandering and living off love and music idyll. The film’s opening scene has Firat waking up from a months-long coma. Something happened and our love trio was shattered by it, and pandemic or not, the awakened Firat is going to get to the bottom of it.
The resolution of that mystery is both intriguing and this meandering movie’s undoing.
Turko-Lebanese singing TV actress Deniz is the draw here — a transfixing and seriously sensual stage performer whom Firat would have to be blind not to tumble for. Her many performances of folky, poppy love songs on their “tour” bring something new about Turkey and Turkish cinema to audiences in other parts of the world — sexiness.
Her presence and the lovely polish that TV director Hilal Siral brings to the production gives “Doom of Love” a mesmerizing quality that makes it worth checking out, even as the Yilmaz Erdogan (“Vizontele”) script lapses into maudlin melodrama and inane and obvious plot twists.
There’s a subtext here that’s also worth considering, at least for a Western viewer, and that’s the film’s youth culture themes. Generational angst about the uncertain present and financially and psychically treacherous future is a universal thing.
“We become the people we want to be,” Lidya preaches (in subtitled Turkish, or dubbed into English), probably repeating something she absorbed at the yoga retreat.
“Happiness is not a process, it’s a moment,” Yusef declares.
It’s the sort of thing you could hear in many corners of our increasingly unsettled and dangerous world, and all echoing the of the youth culture of the “Tune in, turn on and drop out” 1960s. “Doom of Love” reaches for the film that signaled that 1960s moment, “Jules and Jim,” and never grasps it.
But in any event, Erdogan, part of a large Turkish acting, writing and filmmaking clan (Related to the Turkish president? I don’t know.) has tapped into something existential and topical in a movie that never really goes anywhere otherwise.
Rating: TV-14, some violence
Cast: Boran Kuzum, Pinar Deniz, Yigit Kirazci and Musa Uzunlar
Credits: Directed by Hilal Siral, scripted by Yilmaz Erdogan. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:40