Paper Lives (2021) Review

Certificate: 15

Director: Can Ulkay

Screenwriter: Ercan Mehmet Erdem

Starring: Çagatay Ulusoy, Emir Ali Dogrul, Ersin Arici

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 96 Minutes

Language: Turkish

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewed by: Pearl

Image result for Kagittan Hayatlar 2021

Mehmet, a young man, earns a living by collecting paper. His biggest supporter in this life is Tahsin Baba. Mehmet’s life takes a completely different turn when an 8-year-old boy named Ali enters his life. Mehmet, who tries to reunite Ali with his family, establishes a different bond with the little boy. – From IMDB

I love a film that completely just subverts your expectations, and throws something at you that you just didn’t expect.  This wasn’t a perfect film by any means, and I had my problems with it which I will get to in a minute, but this was a lot better than I was expecting, and went in a direction I would never have guessed.

Ever since Dicken’s penned ‘Oliver Twist’ way back in the day, tales of street urchins have been around to tug at our heart strings.  Annie, Slumdog Millionaire, The Little Princess, homeless, orphaned children are a sure fire way to get your audience immediately invested.  And it was even easier here what with Ali being a damn cute, and not even a little annoying.  The relationship between him and Mehmet was so loving and joyful, it made the conditions of their life together seem a lot better and more enjoyable than it was.

See the source image

But don’t think that means that this is a happy film.  It isn’t.  There are some real dark undertones to it.  Mehmet is sick, and getting sicker.  They live a dangerous life and deal with violent and unpredictable people.  A stark warning to those sensitive to themes of child abuse this is a recurring theme throughout.  As the film goes on and Mehmet becomes more and more sick, the joyous atmosphere starts to disappear, and we are left with the stark reality. 

Çagatay Ulusoy plays Mehmet our main character and his performance is truly amazing.  Especially towards the end when his is becoming less and less mentally stable.  By the final minutes his portrayal is heart-breaking and hard to watch.  None of the minor characters are given that much time or space to grow throughout the film, the story really isn’t about them, which is a shame as we hardly get to know the names of most of them, but it is Gonzales who narrates at the end of the film, almost explaining why everyone stayed in the background, and let Mehmet do the things he was doing, and that I think is saddest of all.

It’s not an uplifting one, but it is an interesting and thought provoking one.  Would recommend checking out trigger warnings before going in though.

‘Paper Lives’ is streaming on Netflix now.

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