It’s the kind of story you hear about often—spouses separated by continents in order to work towards making a better life for their family. A breadwinner wins the opportunity for immigration to the United States while his/her second half must remain home for years before the chance for reunion presents itself. But whether it takes one, five, or in this instance ten years to once more achieve the loving embrace that feels but a fleeting memory after so much time, the joy of being together again trumps all previous pain. For Mine (Gamze Ceylon), however, the journey to a new world is not without its obstacles.
A bittersweet tale of love and family, Ali Yasin Akarcesme‘s Departures proves that life is but a series of them. Every arrival brings with it an inevitable sad goodbye and the greatest stories of the purest romance find themselves rife with sacrifice. Mine has waited a decade to leave Istanbul, Turkey, but when the time comes to finally fly halfway around the world there’s more nervous excitement than absolute happiness. What’s to say her husband Hakan (Yavuz Hekim) hasn’t changed to the point where their love is rendered obsolete? Who’s to say Mine will be able to assimilate to the new culture and even make it out of the airport without a lick of English?
Crisply shot in close with a lively soundtrack by Hicistan, the film stays with Ceylon’s feeling of alienation from start to finish. At home readying for her trip, the realization she’ll be leaving her country behind is etched to her face—sadness mixed with the hope for possibility. Arriving at the airport to meet a customs agent unable to let a link of sausage enter the country, it’s the kindness of a stranger named Ezgi (Ada Alize Ertem) that allows Mine to even have a chance of setting foot on American soil. Hakan has been delayed and her need to find a bus headed for New Brunswick, NJ is like solving cold fusion. At risk of arrest simply due to her foreign habit of human touch during conversation, her new life almost ends before it can begin.
Akarcesme creates some intriguing character dynamics by saying a lot in the quick glimpses allotted each during the short 12-minute run time. American citizens feed into their stereotype by either ignoring Mine’s newcomer or causing a fuss loud enough to bring security over for a talk. Besides our country’s fear of dark complexions, it only takes one look at the lost face of Ceylon to realize she could do no harm. Only the Turkish transplant Ezgi is able to understand how hard it is to smoothly transition to a new land without language or custom. By helping this woman in need, we start championing her kindness and morality—and then her secret is revealed to give us pause.
The casual, matter-of-fact way in which we learn how Ezgi copes with her fiancé living in Turkey while remaining abroad only makes us wonder how happy Mine and Hakan’s reunion will be. The wringing of Ceylon’s hands becomes apparent and her want to apply make-up and look her best makes us hope the brief appearance of Temi Hason at Hakan’s bedroom door earlier can be explained despite our fears of infidelity. We ready for the fallout as Ceylon’s visible defeat in fearing the worst does the same. Kudos to Akarcesme for his ability to make us feel this way and for the emotional twists given to provide safety and turmoil in a fantastic finale defining the true meaning of sacrifice and the fleeting moments that make it endurable.
 Gamze Ceylan playing Mine, lost in NJ.Film by Ali Y. Akarcesme