In the United States we have a “boomerang generation”: adult children come back home to live in their parents’ basement until the economy improves. Majority shows a Turkish family where the same phenomenon is happening.
Mertkan (Bartu Küçükçaglayan) is probably 20 years old. He hangs out with friends, lives at his parents’ house, and is expected to take over the family construction business some day. His heart doesn’t seem to be in it, but this is his life.
He doesn’t see eye to eye with his father. Dad is gruff, manly. He goes out of his way to fit in with the other men his age, and thinks his son doesn’t do enough to join the old-boy network. Mertkan is chubby and awkward. He prefers to eat alone, to ditch his friends to talk to a girl. Maybe he’s a little insecure, or maybe he’s just sensitive.
He meets a waitress he likes, Gül (a very pretty Esme Madra), and they start a little romance. His friends and his father say that she is a “gypsy.” A native Turk might tell you exactly what that means in terms of ethnicity, but the implication is clear: they don’t think she is good enough for him. “Use her and then dump her,” is their advice. It sounds as cruel to Mertkan as it does to you and me.
The collective character of his friends and father is revealed again after Mertkan causes a drunk-driving accident with a taxi. They advise him to cheat the victim and bribe the cops to cover up the fact that he was drunk. Again, Mertkan knows he’s getting bad advice.
There isn’t a bad performance in Majority. The people who give bad advice — especially Mertkan’s father — don’t seem evil; they just seem to belong to a very conservative culture where loyalty and respect for authority outweigh fairness outside of the family circle. Küçükçaglayan’s Mertkan is sympathetic, but too wishy-washy to be really likeable; maybe that makes his character a little more believable. Madra’s Gül is strong and lovely but overwhelmed by the ethnic majority she’s immersed in.
(Spoiler alert in effect.) At first I thought Majority ’s weakness is its lack of a story arc. I found it a static portrait of a frustrating life, with a particularly unsatisfying ending. But I realize now that there is an arc, and it’s about Mertkan’s awakening from living life as his parents’ son, to seeing that there is another world outside of the rigid, conservative culture he has known his whole life. The reason the film seems static is that Mertkan chooses to look backward, not forward.
In a more mainstream film, Mertkan would have escaped his culture and become a new man. But in life, that’s not what usually happens. That’s the tragedy of a man like Mertkan and the triumph of a film like Majority.
Speaking of “majority,” I don’t know if the same verbal ambiguity works in Turkish, but “the age of majority” is that age where a child is finally considered an adult. That definition works for this film, which is about deciding which direction to go when you grow up.
“Majority” also works to describe the power of peer pressure. Contrary to the advice of mothers everywhere, if all our friends went and jumped off a cliff, we would seriously consider doing it too. Usually the majority doesn’t ask us to do that; they usually just ask us to fit in. But sometimes those feel like the same thing.