Credit: Courtesy of Film at Lincoln Center
by Michael Sicinski Featured Film

Almost Entirely A Slight Disaster — Umut Subasi [ND/NF ’23 Review]

April 7, 2023

Umut Subaşı’s debut feature, Almost Entirely a Slight Disaster, is a curious beast. In many regards, it’s quite accomplished, and displays some very decisive stylistic choices. It’s basically a roundelay narrative involving four young adults in Istanbul, a suitably wry comedy of manners that Subaşı orchestrates with planometric compositions, rhyming visuals, and a deadpan dramatic approach. It does, however, take a while to get going, and even then, there are moments when one gets the impression that Subaşı has no clear destination in mind.

Zeynep (Melisa Bostancioglu) and Ayşe (Melis Sevinç) are roommates. There is minor conflict between the two of them, since Ayşe owes Zeynep a large sum of money. But like everything else in this film, the conflict is tamped down and restrained, almost to the point of invisibility. Zeynep is interested in astrology; Ayşe is obsessing over the fact that a stranger told her she “doesn’t look Turkish.” Meanwhile, Mehmet (Mert Can Sevimli), a frustrated electrical engineer, meets up with Ali (Ibraham Arici), an old childhood friend. They discuss various matters, including a job Ali’s applying for, Mehmet’s frustrations with his wife (Didem Topcuoglu), and a favor that Mehmet is arranging for Ali through his older brother (Murat Saglam).

As Slight Disaster plods along, an attentive filmgoer will notice some odd patterns. The majority of the film is comprised of extended conversations between the four principals, paired off in different combinations. People tend to lie to one another, either out of pride or convenience. A number of conversations take place in a café, with the two actors facing each other in a two-shot. Insecurities result in romantic mishaps, all of which eventually come crashing down. And lots of Turkish coffee and tea are consumed.

Insert the word “soju” in the sentence above, and you’ll get where I’m going. Often Subaşı’s film feels like a direct translation of Hong Sangsoo’s filmmaking into Turkish. There are even breaks between the acts, and the endless repetition of a piece of piano music (in this case, Beethoven’s “Turkish March”). Granted, Slight Disaster includes overbearing touches that Hong would never employ, like distractingly arrhythmic editing and, in a bit of faux-sincerity, an ongoing motif showing each of the main characters (but especially the men) sobbing to themselves in private. There’s no question that Slight Disaster shows promise, but it also suggests that Subaşı is overly concerned with making a film that follows the rules of festival cinema. Here’s hoping he finds his own voice.

Published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 14.