If you are at that moment in which no commercial series satisfies you because to see problems of the first world you already have yours, there is a medium title hidden among the catalog of series de Netflix that it will touch the fiber because it is one of those that makes you step on the ground. We could say that it is one more Turkish soap opera because of the amount of feelings that it overflows and the number of characters that intersect, but the truth is that it only shares nationality with them. Its titled We met in Istanbul, consists of eight chapters (hopefully they will encourage a second season after the magnificent reviews received) and is one of the best portraits of the two Turks that have been filmed to date. Its screenwriter and director, Berkum Oya, is one of the most followed writers in his country. There must be a reason.
But, what is this mini series with a simple appearance and deep cutwork all about? The story introduces us to Meryem (Öykü Karayel), a humble young woman, Muslim with firm beliefs, who works as a cleaner in the house of a man who lives in the European way and who is only concerned with professional success and women. One day Meryem begins to suffer a series of faints that lead her, with mistrust of herself and hers, to the consultation of a psychologist named Peri (Defne Kayalar). This represents the opposite face of that Muslim Turkey and this is where it starts, through its therapy sessions, the confrontation and also the many common points of two cultures that coexist under the same flag. Don’t throw in the towel the first time, because the first chapter must be recognized as dense and contemplative. But if you shake hands with Meryem and allow yourself to be carried away by the routine of her life, you will immediately find yourself absorbed in a tale of crossed lives that has nothing to envy to the famous Robert Altman.
Through Meryem we will meet others key characters in the storyLike his brother, also very religious but who earns his living as a security guard in a disco; his sister-in-law, suffering from a rare Mental illness that makes her reject her husband and lock herself in a reality full of trauma; the hodja or spiritual guide of the town; his daughter, who leads a double life due to her homosexuality, or an admirer of few lights than the protagonist, who doesn’t have a hair as a fool although at times it seems like it, sometimes values it as the only way out. Frustration, agony, envy, love, misunderstanding, desires … are identical to those experienced by the other supposedly more prepared characters. And among them, a whole sea of doubts and mistrust as great and deep as The Bosphorus that they only overcome when they remove their mask.
We are not going to deny that the rhythm of the sequences is slow, that the silences at times say more than the words –especially through the immense eyes of the protagonist–, that there are scenes that look like paintings, many zeniths, and that the Turkish music swings you through the alleys until suddenly it cuts out to the rhythm of techno. All of this is carefully planned to lead us into the dark room of hidden feelings. It does not matter that some have studies and others do not, that they work in the city or in the country, that the hiyab Cover up gorgeous hair or make a miniskirt show off your legs. If you’ve been to Istanbul (even grafting hair, like us) you will also know that both cultures coexist without problem as long as they do not look too much in the face. And this is where the appeal of this series lies, which allows us to witness both the empathy and rejection that arise between them when no one of their own sees them.
It is true that the translated title We met in Istanbul sounds like those other telenovelas that now sweep the usual televisions, but nothing to see because this is undoubtedly among the best series of 2021 from Netflix. What’s more, some connoisseurs name filmmaker Ingmar Bergman and psychiatrist and essayist Carl Gustav Jung as direct influences. The point is, the result is delicious, haunting, analytical, like an unassuming basic anthropological study. It really leaves a very good taste in the mouth among so much noisy and colorful fiction, although in Turkey it has scaled the most conservative for some sex scenes. And so that this juicy cultural bite does not choke you, and if that you compensate later with a good shot of Paquita Salas.
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