SXSW 2021: “The Criminals”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In a very strict culture, two people who love each other must get married first before they are allowed to get close to each other. If intimacy occurs before marriage, it can be punishable with something as harsh as a death sentence.

Nazli and Emre, escaping their homes, hope to spend a night together and decide to book a room in a hotel. However, without a marriage certificate, the two were not accepted by many hotels in the city. But when they thought of ways to fool the system, to their surprise, it backfires, creating a dangerous and out-of-control situation for everyone involved.

First of all, the performances delivered by two young stars, Deniz Altan as Nazli and Lorin Merhart as Emre, is superb. The two recreate an atmosphere of two lovebirds who will do anything to spend a night together. They are truly fond of each other, and it’s noticeable. In fact, to the hotel employees too, when they figured Emre’s trick.

Scripted and directed by Serhat Karaslan, “The Criminals” perfectly exemplifies a conservative society and the freedom it has when it comes to punishing those who, they believe, are trying to fornicate. It creates a psychological tension that is truly unsettling to watch. But to a certain extent, it has to go far and beyond to capture conservatism, it’s harshness and how it’s unapologetic towards the younger generation.

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