It’s a classic romantic comedy setup: a marriage of convenience. She wants to get away from her conservative Muslim family, so she can party and do as she likes. He is Turkish, and a mess. So she offers to cook and clean for him, if he’ll marry her and pose as her respectable Turkish husband occasionally for her family.
As a romantic comedy, it’s more gritty and, well, European than most, but pretty much goes the predictable places. They have to fake a wedding, and all the headaches that go with it. He has to deal with her annoying family. She has to clean up after him, and he gives new meaning to the word “slob.” He gets jealous when she hooks up with other guys. And then they have sex and fall in love, or maybe vice versa, I’m not sure….
And then, thanks to a random tragedy, it turns on a dime into a relentlessly dark film about a woman spiraling out of control in a society dominated by men — and not very nice men, either. It’s not a romantic comedy any more, it’s a tragic romance about separated lovers.
“Head On” employs a storytelling technique I’m not very fond of — at a crucial moment, it smash-cuts way into the future, and leaves us to figure out what happened back then through contextual clues. This film does it several times, and it gets more and more annoying each time. I don’t mind when a movie starts in the middle and challenges the audience to catch up, but these abrupt cuts and the disorientation that go with them don’t work as well for me. I want to watch a story unfold, not spend most of the time trying to figure out what I missed.
And, thanks to one of those smash cuts, I ultimately don’t buy the ending. We go from her trying to get herself killed – and very nearly succeeding to her aunt telling him that “she’s happy now and has a daughter.” So happy that when he comes for her, she won’t go with him. It’s not earned. Five minutes ago they were dying for each other, and now her life has changed so drastically, she can’t be with the man she used to love. I need to see that change; I can’t just assume it into the character. What in the world keeps her from taking her daughter and going with him? I can only guess, because the film isn’t interested in showing me.
It feels like “Head On” isn’t brave enough to give us a happy ending – after all, we’re in tragic romance mode, and tragic romances don’t have happy endings.
Verdict: Not Recommended There’s definitely some fun and interesting and entertaining stuff here, but as a whole, “Head On” doesn’t hold together. The good parts almost redeem the problems, but not quite. It’s ultimately a frustrating movie, and not one I can fully get behind.