Turkish screenwriting profile: Sadece Sen

istanbul street scene

Istanbul street scene. Image courtesy of Svetlana Gumeroa, Unsplash.

Imagine what would happen to you if you’d made mistakes that totally ruined your life, but you still had to get through the rest of your life. That is the basic premise behind the 2014 romance “Sadece Sen”. (“Just You” in English. And yes, it’s subtitled.)

(WARNING: Serious spoilers ahead.)

The main protagonist is the mysterious loner Ali (excellently played by the handsome Ibrahim Çelikkol), who works as a water deliveryman by day and as a parking garage attendant at night. He sits in a small cubicle and watches TV to pass the time when vehicles aren’t going in and out of the 24-hour garage.

One night, a beautiful and cheerful brunette (Belçim Bilgin) comes in, plops down beside him, and hands him snacks while she chatters away. Bemused, Ali accepts the food but then stares intently at the woman and realizes from her unfocused gaze that she is blind.

They start talking and the woman (her name is Hazal) understands that Ali is not the person she was expecting. She was friends with the previous attendant and they would watch TV together. Hazal is embarrassed, has Ali return the food to her bag and leaves to walk home. A thunderstorm comes up and Ali kindly says that Hazal can stay and watch TV with him until the storm is over.

She accepts and they sit together, enjoying the refreshments Hazal brought. Later, Hazal leaves him some homemade raisin cake as a thank-you. Ali takes it home and gives some to his pet, a baby turtle. Probably, it’s the first time someone’s been kind to Ali in a long, long time.

(Side note to Nora Roberts fans: If they ever film her “In Death” series, this actor would make an amazing Roarke. He’d need to wear blue contacts and learn to speak English with an Irish accent, but to my mind: THIS. IS. ROARKE.)

Over time, Ali and Hazal become friends and eventually fall for each other. It’s a relationship that’s good for both of them. Hazal has been alone since a car crash caused her to be mostly blind and took the life of her parents, and Ali likes having someone human to care about.

He also tells Hazal something about himself; he’s a 30-year-old ex-boxer who grew up as a street kid until his coach hired him due to his talent. Ibrahim Çelikkol portrays Ali as a man deeply ashamed of what he’s done in life and who doesn’t seem to expect good things to happen to him.

Through conversations with the coach, we also find out that Ali was tempted by some easy money, worked as an enforcer for a criminal gang (hired to frighten, but not kill) and went to jail. His job was to frighten people so they’d pay up, and Ali was good at it — a little too good. One of his victims committed suicide by setting himself on fire (look closely) and jumping out a window; the police were there and arrested Ali. He disappeared from the coach’s life and lost his house, job and children.

And Hazal’s work situation at a call center is not so serene. Her male boss is sexually harassing her and won’t take no for an answer, despite the clearly negative signals she sends out. One night, he shows up at her apartment, drunk and aggressive. Thankfully, Ali shows up just in time to defend her (my hero!).

Ali says, “You don’t have to put up with this hassle and return back to that job.” But Hazal is strong-minded and maintaining independence is important to her, so she asks what else she is supposed to do instead. Ali offers to take care of her. Hazal initially refuses, but then reconsiders and allows Ali to help.

In addition, Hazal’s sight is continuing to deteriorate and she needs an expensive operation to regain her sight or else go fully blind. Ali gets the money by offering to participate in an underground fight in Bulgaria under an assumed name.

Then, Hazal’s birthday arrives and she takes him to her parents’ grave to “introduce” them. She hasn’t celebrated her birthday for five years. As she talks, Ali grows visibly upset, because he realizes that he’s the cause of the accident that took her parents. Hazal was driving the car on the night of her birthday, passed by the building where Ali was and was distracted by seeing a burning man falling out of an upper-story window (sound familiar?). She collided with another vehicle and the car flipped over.

Ali makes the painful decision that he’s going to have to give up Hazal. He gives Hazal one night of fun at an amusement fair before she goes in for the operation. He goes off to Bulgaria for the fight (the kind where you fight until you can’t get up or you die), but doesn’t intend to come back into her life after that.

Things go south for Ali in Bulgaria — he wasn’t expected to win the fight but he does and gets punished for it by being beaten up and thrown into some water. However, he doesn’t die.

So I’m not going to give away the ending — watch the movie on YouTube. You’ll like the ending, trust me. If you’re snowed in sometime this winter and are feeling in the mood to try something a little different from the standard Hallmark fare, check it out. (Video credit: Midnight Talks, YouTube.)

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