A very interesting film that blends a Vertigo-like vibe with something else, something pertaining specifically to Turkey and some general ideas about how people define themselves in different company, I’m Not Him is a movie that creeps along behind you, gets into your head and then won’t leave long after you’ve seen it. It’s memorable, without seeming to do anything all that memorable.
Ercan Kesal plays Nihat, a lonely kitchen worker who ends up becoming involved with his co-worker, Ayse (Maryam Zaree). It turns out that Ayse has a husband in prison. He was put there on charges of forgery, but had his sentence extended due to incidents on the inside. Nihat and Ayse soon start to use one another, and also change one another, as they start to feel their loneliness ebb away. But it doesn’t seem set to last, especially with Nihat wanting to keep their relationship secret from any other colleagues.
Featuring a couple of great performances from Kesal and Zaree, who both get to show great range in a script that ends up being quite a showcase for skilled players, I’m Not Him is both predictable and enthralling. I can imagine people being turned off by the sedate pace and strangeness of it all, but I was enthralled for every minute of the 120+ minute runtime. The film somehow manages to feel very realistic and yet also, in the second half, very dream-like.
Writer-directed Tayfun Pirselimoglu isn’t interested in trying to surprise viewers. There are one or two enjoyable little twists and turns in the movie, but it’s clear, from very near the start, just how things are going to play out. Everything is quite clearly laid out, or so it seemed to me, and the pleasure comes from watching the main characters follow a trail of breadcrumbs that seems to have been laid out for them by their own subconscious.
Soaked in the flavour of Turkey, while never feeling like a Travelogue, this serves as an object lesson on how to create a film with a national identity that doesn’t stoop to the usual tourist shots and flag-waving moments. In fact, Pirselimoglu allows the whole film to work in exactly the same way as the main characters. It’s stamped with an identity that wavers and changes, depending on how the viewers want to perceive each main scene.
It’s a great shame that I fear fans of great drama may not rush to seek this out, while fans of psychological thrillers may find themselves frustrated by the quiet strangeness of it all. Despite the factors working against it, I hope many others get to check this out one day. It’s well worth your time.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: TAYFUN PIRSELIMOGLU
STARS: ERCAN KESAL, MARYAM ZAREE
RUNTIME: 124 MINS APPROX