I don’t know why I was so hesitant to get started with Head-On, Fatih Akin’s film about two dysfunctional (to put it mildly) people who meet in a hospital and develop a complicated relationship. Well, maybe I do; most of the films I’ve watched as of late have been around an hour and a half, and the prospect of now having to sit through a full two-hour film seemed mildly daunting compared to the ease I’ve become accustomed to. That, and the film didn’t seem to have much going for it; everything I could find about it was basically various things that I’d seen before in other films. Well, once again, I needed a film like this to remind me that just because I’ve seen stuff like this before doesn’t mean that this isn’t a film that is worth watching.
Cahit is a man who, as he puts it later in the film, is “already dead”. In one reckless night, after drinking far too much, he purposefully drives head-on into a wall, only barely surviving. In the hospital, he meets Sibel, a young woman who, upon meeting Cahit and finding out he is Turkish, wants him to marry her so she can finally escape her parents’ household and live her own life. After some trepidation, he agrees, and the two become a married couple in appearance, but are more-so roommates, free to do whatever or whoever they want with or without each other. Of course, they end up falling in love, but the story has quite a distance to go after that is established. The story was the main draw into getting me to finally sit down and watch this, but I ended up staying for what a great film it was. Most of this is completely thanks to the two central characters and the actors who portray them, and both of them are absolutely brilliant in their performances. Sibel is a character alright, but it’s the second half of the film where she tries to get on with her life while Cahit is not there that she completely comes out of her shell, and major kudos go to actress Sibel Kekilli for what she does. But the core of the film is squarely on Cahit, and this is all due to actor Birol Unel; his performance and characterization can only be described as a powerhouse. I was reminded quite often of Daniel Day-Lewis in In the Name of the Father, and any comparison to Daniel Day-Lewis is probably the highest praise I can give an actor. If you watch this for no other reason, watch it for Unel and Kekilli.
Of course, it helped a lot that the film was very well made, though nothing was too outstanding enough for me to arrant mentioning it. But the star (or stars) of the film was unquestionably the two main players. I haven’t seen Jamie Foxx’s performance in Ray yet, which won the Best Actor Oscar that year, but looking over the nominees, it seems a real shame that Unel didn’t at least get a nom out of this, even for a foreign film. This would, however, go on to win Best European Film at the European Film Awards, and Unel himself would win Germany’s film honors for best actor, which I guess is somewhat of a consolation. Still, I was really surprised at how good a film this was, and accolades should go to director Akin as well. I can’t say it will be for everyone, but if it seems intriguing, definitely give this a shot.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10