HomeEntertainment'Ashes' Review: Netflix’s Twisty Turkish Romance Turns Into a Wannabe Erotic Thriller

‘Ashes’ Review: Netflix’s Twisty Turkish Romance Turns Into a Wannabe Erotic Thriller

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The Big Picture

  • Beautifully directed with stunning cinematography,
    Ashes
    offers a visually appealing film experience.
  • The lack of chemistry between the lead actors detracts from the effectiveness of the plot twists.
  • Despite a strong start, the final act of
    Ashes
    derails the film, spoiling the goodwill established earlier.



Ashes is the latest in Netflix’s robust slate of Turkish films hitting the streamer in recent months, and one of the more confounding tales it has debuted. It centers on Gökçe (Funda Eryigit), a wealthy woman who gets swept up in the fantasy of a mysterious manuscript that her husband (Mehmet Günsür) gives her to read. The lines between fiction and reality begin to blur when her obsession with the unpublished book leads her to Metin (Alperen Duymaz), a local carpenter who is remarkably similar to the manuscript’s mysterious “M.”


Istanbul is gorgeously framed by Erdem Tepegöz’s direction, which unironically feels like its own character within Ashes’ narrative. As Gökçe attempts to puzzle her way through the fact and fiction of the manuscript, she finds herself following the clues laid out in the text that lead her to whimsical “towers” and beautifully mundane locations that feel torn from the pages of a novel. It’s in these moments that Ashes truly soars. And perhaps that’s what the film attempts to explore—this idea that the fantasy is a beautiful thing masking a more insidious reality. But the execution of this fable fails to live up to its expectations.

Ashes

A wealthy, married woman falls in love with a mysterious carpenter, which leads to many conflicts.

Release Date
February 9, 2024

Director
Erdem Tepegöz

Cast
Funda Eryigit , Mehmet Günsür , Gökçe Eyüboglu , Alperen Duymaz

Runtime
100 minutes

Main Genre
Drama

Writers
Erdi Isik



‘Ashes’ Goes Up in a Blaze of Uncertainty

Ashes bills itself as a romantic drama, but there’s very little actual romance contained in it. In the same vein as Netflix’s Last Call for Istanbul, which was lambasted for the less-than-sizzling chemistry between its leads, Ashes lacks the spark required to sell the star-crossed romance it’s trying to chase after. There may be no shortage of heat (which the trailer gives a sizeable sampling of) but frenzied hate sex doesn’t necessarily translate into a “leave your husband” affair. This isn’t to say that Eryigit and Duymaz don’t have some chemistry—because they do—but the script leaves them no room to develop their relationship to the point it needs to reach to make audiences care about the third-act twist.


To an extent, the first two acts do attempt to explore Gökçe’s prosaic marriage to Kenan (Günsür) in parallel to her burgeoning relationship with Metin, but their marital discord feels largely contrived. Kenan is a hardworking publisher who seems dedicated to his wife and son, and he makes time for both of them. Gökçe isn’t expected to just be a mother and wife—she has her own business and a small group of friends she lunches with. Ashes even goes so far as to peel back the veil on Gökçe and Kenan’s extracurricular activities in the bedroom, which in hindsight seems quite extraneous as the story begins to unravel. It’s as though Ashes wants to be an erotic thriller, but—like so many films recently—it has no idea how to actually get there.


Therein lies the real problem that Ashes faces. On paper, Erdi Işık’s script seems like the ideal scenario. A woman finds herself drawn into the fantasy of an unpublished manuscript that mysteriously mirrors her own whirlwind romance with a local carpenter. Her marriage isn’t fulfilling some primal need, so she tries to grasp onto this fantasy to reclaim some part of her. In isolation, each aspect of the script seems appealing, but as the full story begins to unfold, it becomes apparent that the story is trying to do too much, with far too little time to do any of it well.

Third Act Surprises Spoil the Spark in ‘Ashes’

It’s ironic that a film about a woman who is so drawn in by the characters of a manuscript that she gets lost in the fantasy of it all has characters that are nowhere near as captivating as they should be. Gökçe is perhaps the most well-defined character in the entire film, but even then, her motivations are often lost in the haze of what’s being told instead of being shown. Her connection to Metin is explored through dreamy, dialogue-free moments where they swoon on rooftops or weave their way through the busy streets together. They are both keeping secrets—from each other and themselves—but there’s never a real haste to uncover them or even an impetus to care what either is hiding. By the end of the second act, you do start to care about where things are headed for Gökçe but the sharp turn it takes towards the end of the third act throws all of that investment into the deep end of the pool.


Despite being one-half of the romance in this romantic drama, Alperen Duymaz is largely underutilized by the film. What he is given to work with, which is essentially playing into the brooding, mysterious trope, works well enough for him. Ashes may be quite lackluster, but hopefully, we’ll see more of Duymaz in future Netflix productions to give Çağatay Ulusoy a run for his money as their poster boy for Turkish dramas. Ashes starts out as a fairly typical Turkish romance drama, with all the trimmings that come with often outlandish and fantastical romances, but the turn it takes spoils the fun that accompanies similar fare.

Ashes

REVIEW

Ashes is a romantic drama that wants to be an erotic thriller when it grows up.

Release Date
February 9, 2024

Director
Erdem Tepegöz

Cast
Funda Eryigit , Mehmet Günsür , Gökçe Eyüboglu , Alperen Duymaz

Runtime
100 minutes

Main Genre
Drama

Writers
Erdi Isik

Pros

  • Clever direction and gorgeous cinematography make for a beautiful film.
  • There is a lot of fun symbolism explored through broken glass and ash.
  • The first two acts of Ashes are fantastic.
Cons

  • Funda Eryigit and Alperen Duymaz lack the chemistry needed to sell the film’s plot twists.
  • The final act derails all of the goodwill established at the start of the film.

Ashes is available to stream on Netflix in the U.S. now.

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