We all seek for some amount of solace within any romantic flick. That’s what makes the genre so versatile after all. The characters, the chemistry, and the customs that surround these stories of profound love have ultimately created millions of variations on different circumstances and plots. It’s a universal experience; one that is further immortalised through the power of the moving image. In the case of Anne Zohra Berrached‘s Copilot, the film opens remarkably as an infectious melodrama set over the span of five quick years. Taking place in Germany during the mid-1990’s, the film follows the student social life of Asli and Saeed, as they slowly come closer to one another amidst familiar turmoil and political debate.
In premise and even arguably execution, Copilot opens strongly as a piece that specifically comments on the tangibility of dreams, self-gained pursuits, and religious beliefs. Never bordering on preachy material within its humble opening act — actors Canan Kir and Roger Azar deliver nuanced performances that elude a strong sense of naturalism and profundity. The two bounce off each other with their developing mannerisms and even vocal range over the depicted five-year stint; adding a level of realism to the overarching piece. While a little too formulaic in structure — at the very least the opening forty minutes offer a promising amount of grounded drama. The same cannot be said about the second act however; where Copilot quickly switches from romantic melodrama to hostile political thriller in a matter of a few frivolous scenes. Utilising blatant exposition to study and comment upon relentless religious debates and other political quarrels, the film looses steam the moment it switches genre gears.
Thought Copilot was egregious enough with its pre-established dwindling twist and turns? Then brace yourself for one final landing that is bound to turn heads in such powerful disbelief. A reveal that is so baffling, that it turns its deliberately methodical melodrama into a work of exploitative historical-revisionist fiction. The final ten minutes of Copilot is a narrative mess; a jumble of questionable artistic decisions and dialogue, that turns a modest romantic thriller into a completely different film. A film that is, in itself, a monster of its own creation. A hideous beast that relishes in its unintentionally humorous finale with a badge of honour. If the closest comparison that could be possibly made about Copilot is the early 2010’s teen-heart throb flick Remember Me — then that’s a pretty alarming indicator of how low this film aims for thematically, on an ethical scale.
What else is there to say about Copilot? It’s the text-book example of a film that succumbed to its own over-ambition. While the inexcusable ending is hilariously tone-deaf; there’s enough material presented within Copilot to at the very least excuse some of its other major flaws. But as a work that deliberately chose to go in a direction that feeds off a performative framing device, the end result is a film that utilises senseless shock for the sake of post-premiere reception. A reception, mind you, that is bound to be violently heated and argued upon its initial bow. Latch your seatbelts, lock your trays, store your valuables, and prepare for some mild turbulence, folks!
Dir: Anne Zohra Berrached
Runtime: 118 minutes
Copilot premiered at this year’s 71st Berlinale as part of the Panorama program. The film is currently seeking international distribution.