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Hesitation Wound (Tereddüt Çizgisi)

A Turkish lawyer has to contend with a number of moral dilemmas as she defends a vulnerable client, while also grappling with the fate of her vegetative mother - from the 3rd Red Sea International Film Festival

Canan (Tülin Özen) is a young and beautiful lawyer who left her native Usak (a medium-sized, not particularly exciting town in continental Turkey) in order to study in the UK and work in Istanbul. She is now back, presumably in order to decide the fate of her comatose mother. Meanwhile, she she continues to practise her profession. She acts on behalf of a vulnerable, self-harming (hence the movie title) young man called Musa, who is being accused of murder and could be sentenced to a life sentence without parole. She embraces her mission wholeheartedly, apparently convinced of his innocence.

This is a quiet and tender movie that blends courtroom and family drama. Behind the bar, Canan has to grapple with many biases. It soon becomes evident that the defendant may have been framed in favour of the victim’s son, who fled the country. The victim’s family are rich and with powerful connections, thereby ensuring that the case is not properly investigated (ie that other suspects are brought to justice). The fact that Musa has a pickpocketing history is consistently mentioned in court, in another affront to the justice system (which mandates that previous convictions should not influence the verdict in question). Perhaps most decisively, there is no jury. One single male judge will make a decision “based on his extensive experience”. It’s a man’s, man’s, man’s world. Hardly the role model of a judiciary.

Two sudden events abruptly interrupt the proceedings. On one occasion, a pipe bursts almost on top of the defendant’s tiny dock, quickly flooding the small and precarious courtroom. On another occasion, blood runs down Canan’s nose. These subtle and yet powerful devices symbolise and fragility and of both the justice system and the individual that helps to run it. Parallel to this, discussions with doctors and her sister about whether and when to turn off the equipment keeping their mother alive and donate her organs (the woman had previously made her desire to become a donor clear) also keep Canan from performing her best. It is her body that gradually reminds Canan of her vulnerabilities: in addition to unexplained nose bleeding, she also develops stomach ulcers. Could her mental health follow suit?

Our protagonist is a flawed heroine. While fighting as hard as she can for justice for her client, Canan to is prepared to break the rules, both at court and at the hospital. She is just as fallible as the justice system with which she has to contend.

This 86-minute drama boasts strong performances, an auspicious script and a beautiful cinematography. The opening and the closing scenes are particularly impressive, as we gain a broader perspective of the city that imprisons Canan. On the other hand, Hesitation Wound lacks a certain je ne sais pas quoi. The story indeed hesitates a little, and ultimately fails to take off. The outcome is a heartwarming movie that won’t stay with you for very long.

Hesitation Wound premiered in the Orizzonti section of the 80th Venice Film Festival, when this piece was originally written. It shows at the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, and at the 3rd Red Sea International Film Festival

By Victor Fraga - 04-09-2023

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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