Directed by Ozan Açiktan, ‘Don’t Leave’ or ‘Kal’ is a Turkish romance drama film. The plot revolves around two lovers Semih (Burak Deniz) and Defne (Dilan Çiçek Denizb) and depicts how they fall in love, move in together, and eventually start having problems. The narrative isn’t linear in ‘Don’t Leave.’ It goes back and forth between the past when Semih and Defne are still in a relationship, and the present, distinguished from each other by the hair color of the male protagonist. If the film’s earnest attempt to capture love, loss, and heartbreak has made you wonder whether it is based on a true story, here is what you need to know.
Is Don’t Leave a True Story?
No, ‘Don’t Leave’ doesn’t appear to be based on a true story. Açiktan developed the project from a screenplay by Sami Berat Marçali, who quoted Anton Chekov on Instagram shortly after the film’s release. “What a fine weather today! Can’t choose whether to drink tea or to hang myself,” Marçali wrote in Turkish.
‘Don’t Leave’ is about modern relationships set against the backdrop of Istanbul. One day, Semih discovers that Defne, his girlfriend of six years, has suddenly left him. The rest of the film is about Semih’s attempt to understand what happened. He gradually realizes that even though he wasn’t conscious about it, the relationship between him and Defne was falling apart, and everyone around them was aware of it. In flashback scenes through Semih’s perspective, we are taken back to happier days, as well as to those days when things weren’t so happy.
In many ways, Semih and Defne are complete opposites of each other. While Semih is free-spirited, wild, and sparkling with artistic curiosity, Defne is reclusive and reserved. Although it seems that these contradictions initially attracted them to each other, the same things later created a seemingly unbreachable divide between them.
Ultimately, ‘Don’t Leave’ is a film about the dissolution of a relationship. Although we get only the male perspective of what happened, Semih undergoes a significant change in the course of the film and begins to realize his shortcomings, so things really balance out. As a movie, ‘Don’t Leave’ can be compared to ‘Carnal Knowledge’ (1971), ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ (1958), ‘Crazy Love’ (2007), ‘Kramer Vs. Kramer’ (1979), ‘Marriage Story’ (2019), and ‘’Scenes from a Marriage’ (1973).
In ‘Scenes from a Marriage,’ for instance, Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman explores the gradual disintegration of a marriage. The film is widely regarded as one of the finest works by the legendary filmmaker. In ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,’ which is based on Tennessee Williams’ play by the same name, Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor star as alcoholic Brick Pollitt and his wife, Maggie. It’s a riveting tale about lost love and feeling trapped in a relationship. ‘Kramer Vs. Kramer’ documents a bitter custody battle between former spouses.
Like any good film that strives to earnestly depict an aspect of human existence, ‘Don’t Leave’ has morsels of reality embedded into it, but it is ultimately not based on a true story.
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