The Wild Pear Tree ★★½

A throwback, of sorts, to Ceylan’s Distant, this epic-length film follows a sad sack college graduate as he returns home to confront his uncertain future and his family, which has disintegrated as a result of his father’s compulsive gambling habit. First and foremost, it needs to be said that this is the least visually striking of the director’s digital works. The locations, mainly a desolate farm and a cramped apartment building, are meant to evoke a sense of decline by design, yet a similar strategy didn’t stop nearly every composition in Winter Sleep from looking stunning. Here, the framing often feels haphazard and the deep-focus landscape shots that we’ve come to expect from this filmmaker are in short supply.

More disappointing still, is the subject of the story, which unfolds so slowly and with such singlemindedness that the impression of the film is like watching dreams shrivel up and die for three solid hours. By no means do I need characters to be likeable to like a film, yet so many of the extended dialogue sequences that Ceylan stages here merely seemed intended to underline the pigheaded nature of the two lead characters. It’s to the director’s credit that the last five minutes, which make a desperate pitch for sympathy, still worked for me, but all the same I have to chalk this up as a considerable disappointment from a master filmmaker who usually has more to offer.