Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s film Three Monkeys is beautiful and captivating. Set in the dusty, hectic Turkish city Istanbul, the rushing trains and the honking cars lay in contrast to the still, lonely lives of the three main characters, Eyup the father, Hacer, the mother and Ishmail, the son, within a family shrouded by a series of secrets, lies and self-deception.

Three monkeys (Photo: Film4)

Three monkeys (Photo: Film4)

The film eerily opens with a dark, empty country road setting up the shadowy, suspenseful tone that continues throughout the story. A rising politician is silently driving when he falls asleep and fatally kills a man. Filled with fear for his political career, he turns to his only option, and rings Eyup. Eyup (played by Yavuz Bingol) allows his boss to persuade him to take his place in jail for the hit and run, in return for a continued salary and a lump sum at the end of his time. Whilst Eyup serves his nine month sentence, Ishmail, (Rifat Sungar) becomes depressed, failing his entrance exam into university, getting into fights and failing to find work. Meanwhile Hacer, (Hatice Aslan) unable to communicate or motivate her son, and trying to upkeep the family home, seeks comfort in other places.

The slowly building tension as lies mount and facades grow is set alongside an insufferably hot Turkish summer, so that it becomes unbearable both within the small family flat and outside in the big city. When Eyup finally returns from his time in prison he finds it hard to readjust to home life as heart-break and tragedy follow the hardship he burdened for his family. The long, unmoving shots and often silent scenes reinforce the characters loneliness and despair, but also, as the family are reunited and secrets and lies become unearthed, their ability to communicate without words. The ironic ending is perfect for this masterful film in which every shot is perfected.

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