Romantic comedy is probably regarded as the most worn-out genre. Especially when it comes to the template rom-com movies, where you can predict what will happen in the end from the very first minute. Netflix’s freshly baked Turkish rom-com Make Me Believe is exactly that kind. There is this girl and this guy who are at loggerheads, thanks to some past misunderstandings between them. There is the girl’s best friend. And the guy’s best friend. These best friends are hooking up. Both the girl’s and the guy’s grandmothers are trying to play cupid. Some routine work troubles the story arc. All these tropes are there. However, there is also a lot of effort involved, which is clearly visible.
Lifestyle magazine editor Sahra and reclusive photographer Deniz have their meet-cute when their grandmothers go AWOL at Assos. It turns out the duo actually knew each other from their childhood, implying that they grew up together. However, Deniz is miffed with Sahra for doing something to him when they were teenagers and seems to take it out on her. Sahra has her own trouble going to work, where she has to take an interview with this famous photographer in order to save her job. Of course, that photographer happens to be none other than Deniz. But given how sour things are between the duo, Sahra has an uphill battle ahead of her to convince Deniz to agree to the interview. Enter Sahra’s friend and colleague Ahu and Deniz’s friend Ulas, who used to be in advertising. Ahu and Ulas instantly take a liking to each other and settle into their roles as catalysts in bringing Sahra and Deniz closer. The overly meddling grandmothers also play pivotal roles in the same, going as far as hiring random men to hit on Sahra in order to make Deniz jealous.
Predictability is not always a bad thing. Even when you know the story, you can end up enjoying it if it is presented correctly. The entire purpose of these romantic comedies is to provide the audience with a good time. These movies are not trying to win awards; all they are trying to do is get a chance to be your “romantic date” movie for the night. But getting through the opening twenty minutes of Make Me Believe turned out to be excruciatingly boring for me. From there on, though, it actually becomes fairly watchable. But the interesting aspect of the movie is that Sahra and Deniz do eventually get together, but that happens at the halfway point, going against the law of the hero and heroine being together only at the climax.
But this movie, despite being heavily shackled by the chain of tried and true tropes, chooses to do things differently. The result of that is a much more solid, engaging second half- not that anything out of the ordinary is happening in it. Now that Sahra and Deniz are together, you get a heavy dose of mushy romance between them as well as a lot of tender moments. The lead pair, Ayça Aysin Turan and Ekin Koç seem convincing enough for you to buy all of that. While their on-screen chemistry is not scorching hot, it is sweet enough to make you root for them.
By getting its romance sorted early, Make Me Believe actually got the opportunity to focus on Sahra’s work and the story arc associated with it. With a lot of time in hand, the narrative explores the two main characters individually. Deniz’s being a reclusive photographer isn’t just a throwaway thing. Instead, we get a proper explanation that makes a lot of sense. The movie raises an argument which says art should speak for the artist rather than any words or awards and it is presented in such a way that it doesn’t seem fake or pretentious. Deniz’s philosophy as a photographer is established in such a manner that it seems very natural. His reason for not being willing to give any interviews is actually something that makes a lot of sense. Of course, considering Sahra’s job was hanging in the balance, it does boil down to that. But now that she is head over heels in love with Deniz, she refuses to prioritize her work and lets the interview go.
Things obviously don’t go smoothly. A huge misunderstanding brews in the final act between Sahra and Deniz, all thanks to Sahra’s extremely obnoxious colleague Karem, which actually brings the movie back to its original rom-com roots. The tonal shift to the land of cheesy is actually a bit jarring, but I did see it coming. The entire climax is an amalgamation of post-2000 romantic Hindi cinema. That is understandable because Turkish cinema and TV are considered more Bollywood these days than Bollywood itself by Indian viewers. Naturally, Sahra and Deniz needed to have a fallout before ending things with a passionate makeout. It took a lot to get there, though. Sahra had to write a whole article, taking inspiration from Sid Malhotra from the iconic Wake Up Sid, who also did similar things to convey his true feelings. And sure, Deniz doesn’t end up at an airport to stop Sahra from leaving, but making a grand entry in his girlfriend’s office and professing his love is a pretty big deal, especially when it potentially reveals his face to the whole world.
Netflix has had a tendency to manufacture these kinds of movies one after another in recent years. This only implies that there is a steady audience for movies like Make Me Believe, who are naive enough to get lost in the glossy-looking world of the movie and become a part of the lead pair’s cheerleading crowd. Actually, calling them naive is not right on my part, given I myself ended up enjoying Make Me Believe to an extent. That being said, it can be considered well-made by Netflix’s standards. It has a believable story, a gorgeous lead pair, and it looks like a dream. Get through the first twenty minutes, and you might end up believing in love. Maybe I am exaggerating a bit, but my cynicism did take a backseat for a while after watching Make Me Believe.