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Paper Lives 2021 Movie Review Poster Trailer Online
Director: Can Ulkay
Writer: Ercan Mehmet Erdem
Stars: Çagatay Ulusoy, Emir Ali Dogrul, Ersin Arici
They say that abandonment is a wound that never heals. I say only that an abandoned child never forgets.” Mario Balotelli
Netflix takes us to the streets of Istanbul, Struggle Alley (!) as they call the area, in a neo-realist melodrama, Paper Lives, about child abandonment and love that knows no bounds. The paradox comes true as Mehmet (Cagatay Ulusoy), a solid waste warehouse owner and dumpster diver meets a homeless 9-year-old, Ali, and nurtures him with an intensity as if he were the boy himself.
Although Mehmet says he’s concerned to find Ali’s mother, he enfolds him like his own child with the self-knowledge that Mehmet himself had been abandoned. Although the psycho trauma of those involved in abandonment is apparent from the beginning, director Can Ulkay intersperses the claustrophobic with images of freedom and joy, such as Mehmet teaching Ali to swim or the two racing the streets pulling carts and picking up discarded paper and bottles. Paper Lives has little of Slumdog Millionaire’s romance and none of Annie’s unreal color, but these street urchin stories tug at the heart nonetheless. Around the world, the search of mom is a common theme, even in our superhero fantasies.
Although waste picking may seem about as darkly realistic as city slums could get, Mehmet’s exuberance and his love for Ali make it seem like a holiday. However, spectral images of mothers and Ali’s urge to return to his mother keep a tension that mitigates the boredom of their work.
As if being motherless were not enough, the film shows Mehmet suffering from a debilitating kidney problem and Ali hallucinating about photos where he mistakenly sees himself with his mother when Mehmet is the subject. The film has complicating layers such as the confusion of Mehmet as Ali that enhance the figurative embodiment of the two being one and the same. As a study in Turkish slums, Paper Lives is stark if not a bit over the top; as a testimony to the importance of stable family life, it soars. On Netflix