Leylak: A moving and beautiful tribute to every COVID-19 victim

Directors Scott Aharoni and Dennis Latos

Saying that the last year and a half have been a dark and rough period would an incredible understatement. COVID-19 took the world by a storm, and sadly, we’re still in its grip. Many people had to say goodbye to loved ones and many nurses, doctors and keyworkers kept the world going by putting their own lives on the line. Now, those courage people are being honoured in the best way possible thanks to the beautiful and emotional “Leylak”, the latest film from directors Scott Aharoni (“The Untimely Gift”, “Bardo”) and Dennis Latos (“Running Out”, “The Paradox”).

The movie is set in current times in Queens, New York and tells the story of the dedicated Turkish gravedigger Yusuf Çelik (Nadir Saribacak), who has seen more death during the past few months than he should have. COVID-19 has sadly also impacted his own family. After working days, weeks and months on end, his job is taking its toll on the relationship between Yusuf and his daughter Renk (Isabella Haddock), and it seems to get worse. After promising his daughter to go on a trip together, he’s about to break his promise when he gets off work early. After managing a ride and having the time to relax for the first time, he’s about to change his mind regarding the trip. He even finds excuses and lies, so he doesn’t have to go. However, this puts a negative strain on the already broken father-daughter bond. Will they make the trip, or will he breaks his promise?

Right from the start, you know that “Leylak”, written by Mustafa Kaymak (“Green”, “Green Card”), is about love, loss, dealing with death, sadness and every emotion in between. To pull off feelings like that, you need a movie that feels up-close and personal, and that’s precisely what “Leylak” is.

First, it’s because of the spectacular cinematography created by Laura Valladao (“Premature”). She already showed her stunning shots when working on the Oscar-nominated film “My Nephew Emmett”, and now she proves again that she has an impeccable eye for beautiful filmmaking. She mainly uses close up shots and leaves out wide and long ones to give the audience the chance to soak up every emotion the characters in “Leylak” are going through.

Another reason why “Lelylak” hits all the emotional notes is the impressive acting from both Saribacak and Haddock. While Saribacak (“Ivy”, “Winter Sleep”) excels in portraying hopelessness, anxiety and loss, Haddock (“Screaming Flowers”) shows us that she’s capable of putting strong emotions out there, such as sadness, anger and despair.

“Leylak” will receive its world premiere at Tribeca Film Festival, and you should definitely this movie if you get the chance. Not only because you will see gorgeous cinematography and moving acting performances but also because this film is a lovely and moving dedication to those who have lost their lives, the families who have suffered and to the essential and frontline workers who risked their lives.

Liselotte Vanophem, Film and Celebrity Writer

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