Romantic. Heart-wrenching. Passionate. Riveting. Cesur ve Güzel embodies those attributes and more. Like Kurt Seyit ve Sura, I was hooked from the first episode—the first scene, really. The explosive premise and outstanding acting in Kivanc
Tatlitug's most recent Turkish television series had me (once again) staying up till 2 a.m. and blowing through one episode after another. With episodes clocking in at two hours and twenty minutes EACH, I did some serious binge watching. But I don't regret one minute of it.
Kivanc Tatlitug's performance is amazing. His uncanny ability to project emotion through body language and facial expression is like looking through a window into his soul. I could feel what he was feeling—whether it was gut-wrenching pain as he mourned loss, or fuming rage as he confronted the man who destroyed his family. He's the best actor I've ever seen.
Ok, now for the low-down—a synopsis, the show's stellar points, and the not-so-stellar points.
Cesur (pronounced Jay-soose) Alemdaroglu returns to a small village outside Istanbul with one
goal in mind: Take down Tashin
Korludag—the man who stole his inheritance and killed his family. The one thing Cesur doesn't count on is falling in love with Korludag's daughter, Suhan...
But Suhan is no easy catch. Fiercely loyal to her father and family, she's instantly suspicious of the handsome newcomer who charms his way into her father's hardened heart. When glimpses of truth of her father's misdeeds begin to surface among a plethora of lies, she is devastated. Never sure what is truth and what is lie, she is torn between her beloved father and Cesur, the man she has grown to love. But in the end, she knows that no matter which side wins—Cesur or her father—she will be the loser.
The Stellar Points:
Constructing a premise around a hero falling in love with the daughter of the man he despises sets up a wonderful framework for conflict. Not only does it test Cesur's commitment to revenge, but it leaves Suhan continually torn between Cesur and her father, the two men she deeply loves.
By rounding out Suhan's inner circle with a servant turned-best-friend, a scorned beau, an adoring brother, and a conniving sister-in-law, the characters' individual drives and personalities provide ample fuel for explosive drama—from intense love and loyalty to deceit and destruction.
But it's not all high drama. A few scenes had me laughing out loud, adding touches of lightheartedness to an otherwise serious story.
One of the things that makes Kivanc Tatlitug so mesmerizing as an actor is his ability to be masculine and authoritative one moment, and then vulnerable, romantic, and wounded—without being wimpy—in the next moment. He acts out a full gamut of emotions and plays them all fantastically well.
His costar and supporting cast were wonderful as well. I've been extremely impressed with Turkish actors as a whole. I've read that Turks are emotional people, so perhaps that explains why their actors seem so superior to American actors in their ability to convey emotion and passion.
•An intangible quality I can't put my finger on
From the beginning, the show feels different from typical American television dramas. It feels fresh. Unique. Different. Although I'm not fully sure why it exudes these qualities, I did pick up on a few contributing factors:
First, directors effectively used several cinematography techniques to heighten the impact of touching scenes. Flashbacks were often used to replay romantic moments, granting my heart the opportunity to go pitter-patter all over again.
By using slow motion for some intense scenes, I had time to fully grasp the magnitude of the unfolding situation.
For romantic and poignant scenes, cameras were brought up close—very close, allowing me to
feel like I was part of the scene.
In addition, high-stakes plot lines coupled with actors talented at portraying emotional extremes made for a riveting show. It certainly wasn't the same-old, same-old. Characters had interesting and distinct personalities, storylines were imaginative, and the subplots intertwined with such complexity that I had no idea how they would play out.
These tactics aren't new to filmmaking, but I haven't seen American shows leverage them the way Turkish ones have.
The Turkish setting adds an interesting dimension as well. I enjoyed observing the similarities and differences in Turkish and American culture. Surprisingly, I found it more similar than different. Their cars, furniture, and clothing styles appeared to be very similar to ours. I chuckled at their Polo shirts, other clothing bearing English slogans, and the familiar wedding march and “Happy Birthday” song. Cesur even had a Christmas tree! Had I not been hearing the Turkish language, I could easily have mistaken it for taking place in the US.
I don't usually notice clothing in TV shows, but I did in this one. Most would agree that Kivanc Tatlitug is one handsome man. But he's even better looking wearing blue. His real-life wife, stylist Basak Tatlitug, chose his wardrobe and did a great job donning him in relaxed, manly duds that fit Cesur's persona and highlighted Kivanc's stunning blue eyes.
Suhan's attire was noteworthy as well. Her outfits were not only stylish, but unique and tasteful. I'd often stop the video just to study her clothing—especially her coats!
•A satisfying, happy ending
I hate sad endings, and Turkish script writers seem to have no qualms about leaving viewers in tears. Without giving away any spoilers, I will say I was quite pleased with the ending on this one. Great last scene with Kivanc delivering one heck of an emotional performance.
•Romance without steamy bedroom scenes
The romance between Cesur and Suhan is the heart of the story, and it was plenty romantic without being lewd. If anything, I would have liked a little more physical demonstration of affection. There were numerous times I wanted to shout, “Kiss her!”
Now for the Not-So-Stellar:
•Some weak plotting/writing
Around episode 23, I wondered if the main script writer took a little vacation. For several episodes the plot lines detoured down the road of the implausible (and sometimes cheesy), with situations that made me feel sorry for the actors tasked with trying to “sell” them as believable scenarios. In addition, one subplot that trails through more than half the series seemed a bit far fetched, but the strength of the overall storyline and the wonderful acting trumps my qualms of the occasional weak plotting.
•English subtitle snafus
Apparently translating Turkish to English is no small feat. I often noticed a misuse of pronouns (they when it should have been she, or your when it should have been his). At times, the full meaning of a scene was lost due to mistranslated words or phrases, but I generally got the gist of what was going on.
•Repeated music tracks
Overall, I've found Turkish productions to be top notch—except for the repetative music tracks! Just like in Kurt Seyit ve Sura, Cesur ve Güzel relied on a half-dozen music tracks to cue the audience to suspense, dread, tender moments, sad moments, etc. It became incredibly annoying listening to the same recycled bars of music over and over. It was so noticeable that in the rare times they used a different music track, I was actually distracted by the music! The compositions themselves are fine, there just isn't enough variety.
For the most part, Cesur ve Güzel had me on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next through nearly all 32 episodes. For some three weeks, I did little else except
escape to the world of Cesur and Suhan. I loved how its premise struck at the heart of humanity—the power of Cesur's love for Suhan and his family juxtaposed with his hate for Tashin Korludag, and the power of words and actions to wound or heal. Heck, it held me captive for nearly 70 (!!) hours. As an author, I learned a lot about plotting, pacing, and emotion. As a viewer, I was taken through a full gamut of emotions—fury over injustice, crushing disappointment of hard truth, and the swoony thrill of being in love. I thoroughly enjoyed it. If you like romance, you'll probably enjoy this too. But I warn you... You can't watch just one episode!
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Copyright @ 2017 Ginger Monette Article reprint policy
-Want to relive the best scenes from Cesur ve Guzel? You'll love my CvG episode guide that outlines each episode and includes timestamps.
-Watch highlights of Kivanc's great facial expressions and the romantic scenes in Cesur ve Guzel in my video "The Many Faces of Kivanc Tatlitug."
-Cesur ve Güzel means “Brave and Beautiful,” a fitting title as certainly its hero was brave, and the heroine was indeed beautiful.
-Cesur ve Guzel contains some mild profanity. Some translations include it, some don't.
-Did you miss my Kurt Seyit and Sura posts? One is a review, the other explains the show's historical context.
-Looking for a taste of Turkish romantic drama without
investing 70 hours? Try the movie Sadece Sen on Netflix. Movie trailer is here. (It's not as violent as the trailer makes it out to be. It's a beautiful romance, I promise : )
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-Do you love Pride & Prejudice and Downton Abbey? Check out the video trailer of my latest novel, Darcy's Hope.
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