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Hicran (Tilbe Taşlı) is a community college grad in Turkey who lives with her imam father and is searching for a good job. Her friend Melek (Didem Balçın) works at a nightclub, and is back visiting the neighbourhood where she grew up. Melek is having problems with an abusive boyfriend, while Hicran has a crush on a local doctor. Together, the two friends try to help each other find solace and love, away from the constraints of a patriarchal society.

Hicran and Melek is a powerful drama about female camaraderie. Director Esra Vesu Ozcelik has a formidable eye for framing, which allows many of the film’s heated dramatic moments to unfold in a single camera take. She offers space for her two main actors to react and play off of each other naturally. Taşlı and Balçın have an easygoing rapport in these two-person scenes, as well as the ability to externalize their character’s feelings during solitary moments.

Some viewers could find Hicran and Melek to be overlong, but the pacing is deliberate for a reason. The drama has many quiet scenes of seemingly extraneous activities; for instance, Hicran making tangerine jam and Melek becoming reacquainted with her childhood home. Leisurely and intimate, these scenes provide the actors with the space to bring their characters to life, as well as comment on the restrictions of being a woman in modern-day Turkey. The result is a moving character-driven drama where the emotions feel rich and realized.