(director/writer: Nuri Bilge Ceylan; screenwriters: Ebru Ceylan, inspired from the short stories by Anton Chekhov; cinematographer: Gokhan Tiryaki; editors: Bora Goksingol/Nuri Bilge Ceylan; music: Schubert piano sonata; cast: Haluk Bilginer (Aydin), Melisa Sozen (Nihal), Demet Akbag (Necla), Ayberk Pekcan (Hidayet), Serhat Kilic (Hamdi), Nejat Isler (Ismail), Tamer Levent (Suavi), Nadir Saribacak (Levent), Mehmet Ali Nuroglu (Timur), Emirhan Doruktutan (Ilyas); Runtime: 196; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Zeynep Ozbatur Atakan; Adopt Films; 2014-Turkey/France/Germany-in Turkish with English subtitles)

“This well-observed drama takes its time telling its narrative, as it adroitly gets to concerns over the human condition.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A richly rewarding domestic drama that requires the viewer to stay tuned into it for over three hours, which is not that easy to do no matter how engrossing is all the invigorating chatter and how stunning are the visuals. Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan(“Once Upon a Time in Anatolia”/”Distant”/”Three Monkeys”) brilliantly directs and co-writes with his wife Ebru. It’s loosely adapted from two Chekhov short stories.

It’s set in central Turkey, in the picturesque steppes of Capppadocia, a place where wild horses freely roam. The wealthy, liberal, aging, cranky, verbose and somewhat smug Aydin (Haluk Bilginer) is a former actor, who writes a worthy but controversial high-concept column for the local newspaper and runs in the rugged mountain region a struggling small hotel he inherited from his father. He lives with his bright, attractive and discontented much younger wife Nihal (Melisa S┼ízen), who seems to know she’s in a bad marriage but doesn’t know if she really wants to get out of it. Aydin partners in the hotel with his embittered sister Necla (Demet Akbag), who also lives with him. She’s disagreeable and is having a problem dealing with her recent divorce. The one thing she knows for certain is how to put her brother down and is perceptive to know that he relies on his gift of gab to get by–as he is always the actor.

As winter approaches, a minor incident occurs that makes all the concerned parties uptight. The angry young son, Ilyas (Emirhan Doruktutan), of a troublesome debtor tenant, in arrears in his rent, the belicose ex-con Ismail (Nejat Isler), throws a rock through the window on the side where Aydin was a passenger in the SUV of his faithful foreman driver Hidayet (Ayberk Pekcan). They were riding through the barren area, grousing about the unreliable tenants whom they can’t evict because the law is too favorable to tenants. Even though it did not harm anyone, the rock shattered the window. While Ismail remains hostile, his younger brother Hamdi (Serhat Kilic) goes out of his way to try and placate the landlord. The minor incident, as it drags on, makes Aydin reflect on his chosen path, his moral code, his relationship with the poor tenants and the class problems he faces. As winter approaches and the snow blankets the fields, the psychologically inflicted intellectual landlord wrestles with how he can manage to have his integrity stay in tack in his thorny situation and tries to do it by just carrying out simple acts of kindness without trying to change the world.

The provocative drama is brimming with issues of ethical values and of matters of the conscience, as it paints the complex brooding Aydin as someoone who looks down on the unfortunates but is in no way an ogre.

The well-observed drama takes its time telling its narrative, but it adroitly gets to everyone’s concerns over the human condition. It was the winner of this year’s Palme d’or.

Winter Sleep Poster