‘Winter Sleep’ trudges along, but it’s worth the effort

The rustic hotel at the heart of “Winter Sleep” is a strikingly unfamiliar place: Located somewhere in Turkey’s Anatolian countryside, perched on a rocky slope, the buildings seem to emerge directly from the stone of the hillside itself.

The cave-like setting might suggest we have not evolved very far from our primitive ancestors, an implication supported by the film’s portrait of psychological cruelty and selfish behavior.

In the course of 196 slow minutes, we discover the world of Aydin (Haluk Bilginer, from “Rosewater”), who inherited the inn and is now running it after working as an actor for many years. He also inherited a bunch of local rental properties, the income from which allows him to sit around penning op-ed newspaper essays while washing his hands of the economic woes of his tenants.

Director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s previous film was “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” (2011), one of the best movies of the decade thus far. Although “Winter Sleep” won the top prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, Ceylan isn’t quite at that level in this outing.

He does retain his uncanny eye for landscapes, a rich talent for getting the most out of actors, and a novelist’s grasp of how small incidents can open up an entire world — in this case, the small incident is a child throwing a rock at Aydin’s truck. The rock breaks some window glass, but it also begins the process of cracking apart Aydin’s arrogant sense of life.

The kid isn’t around much, but he witnesses some of the film’s most devastating moments, including the humiliation of his responsible uncle (Serhat Kiliç) because of the family’s debt to landlord Aydin.

After a brilliant opening hour, Ceylan falls out of rhythm — he has cited the influence of Chekhov on this film, but Chekhov kept the drumbeat and the humor going.

Two extremely long and talky sequences dominate the middle of “Winter Sleep”: Aydin and his sister (Demet Akbag) calmly engaging in a duel of mutual laceration, and Aydin and his younger wife (the superb Melisa Sözen) arguing over her charity work — he insists on “helping” her with things she desperately needs to do herself. Those scenes are precise and well observed, but the film has a hard time finding its stride again.

If it fails to finish as strongly as it began, “Winter Sleep” nevertheless collects a series of haunting moments and unflinching exchanges. It’s not as great as it wants to be, but it doesn’t miss by much.

“Winter Sleep” (three stars)

At a rustic inn in the Turkish countryside, an arrogant former actor is tested by a series of intense encounters. This takes the gifted director Nuri Bilge Ceylan a slow 196 minutes to unfold, a marathon that offers many brilliant moments but that also loses its stride at times. In Turkish, with English subtitles.

Rating: Not rated; probably PG-13 for subject matter

Showing: Grand Illusion theater

More in Life

Take a closer look: Winter gardens share gifts in subtle way

Go on a neighborhood walk this month to enjoy the seasonal beauty offered by a variety of gardens.

Shopping cart showdown: Which stores have best food prices?

Jennifer Bardsley compares Fred Meyer, PCC, QFC, Safeway, Trader Joe’s, WinCo and Whole Foods offers.

The top 10 albums of 2017: From Jay-Z to St. Vincent

This year saw an upward trend in music industry revenue due to the popularity of streaming services.

Relationship do’s and don’ts: Lessons from 40 years of marriage

Paul Schoenfeld reflects on what he’s learned about relationships after four decades with his wife.

Great Plant Pick: Pinus contorta var. contorta, shore pine

What: Who is not impressed by the beauty and toughness of this… Continue reading

Red wine usually costs more, but you can still find bargains

Here are five good-quality reds that won’t drain your grocery budget.

Beer of the Week: Skull Splitter and Blood of My Enemies

Aesir Meadery of Everett and Whiskey Ridge Brewing of Arlington collaborated to make two braggots.

Lots to see in Upper Skagit, even if the eagles are elusive

A guided hike through a mossy old-growth forest more than makes up for a lack of raptor sightings.

Making it through the holidays on 4 legs and 4 wheels

1. Driving safety Here are some travel tips from the Red Cross… Continue reading

Most Read