Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Hate Valentine’s Day? We’ve lined up a week of holiday counter-programming, the best break-up movies and anti-love stories available.
In Head-On—Fatih Akin’s boozy, anarchic 2004 melodrama about people crashing into, and being torn away from, each other—love and sex afford euphoria and misery, liberation and imprisonment, In Hamburg, Turkish widower Cahit (Birol Ünel) tries to end his agony by ramming his car into a wall. That failed suicide attempt lands him in a hospital, where he meets Sibel (Sibel Kekilli), who’s slashed her wrists out of anguish over her oppressively controlled life with her traditional Turkish family. Sensing an opportunity to escape her constrictive situation, Sibel asks Cahit to marry her—a sham arrangement that will allow her to dance and screw to her heart’s content. A walking punk-rock disaster still raging against a world that stole his beloved wife from him, Cahit agrees to this farce, only to unexpectedly fall in love with Sibel. There are further complications from here, including a separation, which Akin dramatizes with a heightened realism that’s equal parts broken-bottle brutal and dark comedy.
As furiously embodied by Ünel and Kekilli, the two lovers are kindred self-destructive spirits who use sex as an outlet for anger (he screws his sometimes-flame Maren with animalistic ferocity) and as a vehicle for asserting freedom (she beams with joy while doing a walk of shame home in her wedding dress). In empathetically detailing their growing closeness, Akin demonstrates how the couple’s bad choices are driven by a desire for connection in a world that often denies and destroys happiness. An over-the-top portrait of unruly passion—of coming together and breaking apart—Head-On finds hope in Cahit and Sibel’s unlikely amour, while also acknowledging how true love is sometimes stymied by unforeseen, irresolvable circumstances.
Availability: Head-On is available on DVD, which can be obtained from Netflix, and to rent or purchase from Amazon Instant Video.