The trailer makes Faraway (2023) look like it’s going to be your standard Netflix assembly-line rom-com, written with the help of a random cliché generator, but it is, in fact, a much  more unique, nuanced, and tender story about a middle-aged woman finding happiness, and yes, a second chance at love in the process. Please do note that I say this with absolutely no disrespect meant to those other rom-coms, which, as you may know, hold a very special place in my viewing life. Also, this takes place in Croatia—and was actually filmed in Croatia—and the scenery is Biologically Blessed beyond belief. 

Zeynep in profile squinting as she looks toward the sun. Small wrinkles are visible around her eyes and cheeks.
Blessed be the crows feet and the soft lines of middle age.

Zeynep (Naomi Krauss) has a snoring husband (Adnan Maral), an aging father (Vedat Erincin) who expects her to do his laundry, and an angry teenage daughter (Bahar Balci). So, the basics of a middle-aged woman’s middling life. On the morning of her mother’s funeral, she wakes up and immediately jams her body into stifling-looking shapewear. Then she learns that her husband won’t make it to part of the funeral because he has a new chef to train. He shrugs that he’s already said his goodbyes to her mother before stealing Zeynep’s piece of toast. Her daughter, who rolls her eyes at everything, plans to wear clothes more suited to a party than a funeral. And her father, the bereaved husband, is more focused on watching a game show than actually getting ready. 

Zeynep light taupe shapewear that reaches to her midthighs.
I can’t breathe just looking at her. And I also want to scream.
Zeynep holding a large pile of laundry as her father walks past in a while tank top. Her husband sits the table.
As he walks by the grandfather manages to make a crack about the daughter being spoiled because she won’t take the laundry from her mother. Ah, the irony that is lost on him.
Zeynep's father and daughter sitting at their small dining table in the crowded apartment.
Would I be mad about some sort of spin off about these two kvetching and getting into trouble together? I would not.

In the midst of this chaos, an older man (Christian Schneller) from upstairs pulls Zeynep aside to give her an envelope her mother set aside for her. Inside is the deed to a small house overlooking the sea in Croatia. Also inside is a diary written entirely in Croatian, which Zeynep can’t read at all. While her mother was born in Croatia, she left when she was young for Turkey, before eventually settling in Germany with Zeynep’s father. Why she bought this house is a mystery, but it turns out to be quite handy when, over the course of the day, Zeynep discovers her husband laughing and flirting with the much younger female chef in his kitchen. Are they having an affair? Honestly, it doesn’t matter. It’s that feeling of lightness and freedom and happiness, which he and Zeynep no longer have and which he so easily finds with this random employee, that cuts her to the quick. 

Zeynep looking overwhelmed as she looks down at the diary and papers that her neighbor has given her.
Imagine just having some guy hand you a whole house in another country?
A restaurant kitchen with many vegetables. A young woman has her back to the camera. Zeynep's husband is turning toward the camera and laughing.
And then imagine witnessing this kind of betrayal on the day you bury your mother? The way it would crush your chest. The way it would suck the air from your lungs.

So, without giving it further thought, and still dressed in her funeral clothing, Zeynep hops in her car and drives to the ferry for Croatia. Then she boards a bus that, somewhere along the way, breaks down in the middle of nowhere. From there, guided only by the maps app on her phone, she walks the rest of the way to the house. She finally arrives, dead tired, with a dead phone battery, and aching feet.

The open ocean with a setting sun and a ferry boat in the center.
Oy. The scenery through which you’re going to have to suffer.
A blue sky and terracotta rooftops of small buildings in a town in Croatia.
But I have faith that you can muddle your way through.
A very dark blue sky at night with one bright star or planet. On the ground are scrubby plants and the outline of Zeynep as she walks.
It’s even stunning at frickin’ night. The audacity.

Without even taking a moment to look around, she falls directly into the bed and sleeps until morning when she is awoken by (drumroll) a middle-aged man snoring! Not fully awake, Zeynep does what she always does to get her husband to stop snoring; she pushes him gently and then rolls over and grabs his nose. The man, who is completely naked, wakes up screaming. Zeynep wakes up screaming. And this is how the Genetically Blessed Josip (Goran Bogdan) and Zeynep meet for the first time. Is it a cute meeting? It is. Do they hit off? Of course not!! Is he Emotionally Unavailable ™ ? You bet his naked buttocks he is!!! He explains that he was born in this house and later sold it to her mother, who then let him live there rent free. She explains that she hopes to rent it on AirBnB. He has a whole rant about AirBnB and beige and sadness and flat screen TVs, which is actually quite sexy if you ask me, while still being somewhat obstinate and mansplainy.  Anyway, it turns out that Josip sold the house, but not all the land, so he moves out, but stays in a tent in the garden adjacent to the house where his goat also lives. (Of course there was going to be a goat!) Josip also works at the general store, where Zeynep has to go to get clothing and supplies, and at the local restaurant. He’s literally everywhere! Which isn’t a bad thing, because he’s an excellent antagonist and not hard on the eyes at all. 

Josip covering his penis with a blanket as he stands in the house near the bed. A window is next to him with an intricate design over the glass. Next to that is bookshelf.
Obviously, I included this picture so you could see the window there to the right of Josip.
Josip standing barechested with his eyes slightly squinted as he looks at Zeynep. Behind him are flowers in bloom on a trellis.
There is much skepticism on their first meeting, but also some raw attraction.
The very blue water with a rocky outcropping of land sticking out into it with one small house on it. A small sailboat is visible in the water.
This is where they are, by the way, and Zeynep does spend some time falling in love with this view.
Zeynep in an outdoor enclosed shower as water rains down over her head.
I have a lot of unanswered questions about the plumbing. I mean, there is no running water. They get water from a hand pumped well. It shows Zeynep showering by pulling a rope to dump a bucket of water over herself, but this can’t be right. She must need more than bucket of water, right? She has a LOT of hair and it’s got to take more than one sploosh of freezing cold water to rinse everything out of her hair. Also, it never, ever mentions a bathroom, but there must be an outhouse somewhere, right? I mean that’s the only answer, correct? And I just wonder if her mom took these things into consideration when she bought the house. I mean, this would be quite the culture shock for someone who has spent her entire life living in an apartment in a city.

While she’s in town, Zeynep meets up with Conrad (Artjom Gilz), a very young and slimy real estate agent who would be more than happy to sell her house to the highest bidder. He plies her with far too much alcohol as he tries to woo her with dreams of bales of money, but it’s Josip who makes sure she gets home safely after she crashes her bike in the middle of a dark dirt road, carrying her over his shoulder fireman style while trading lyrics of 99 Luftballoons to keep her mollified. It’s also Josip who, when Zeynep can’t stand the strangling tightness of her shapewear a moment longer, helps to free her from it. As he leaves, he lights her shapewear on fire in a fit of passion. Now, look, I’m not a huge fan of this bit because men don’t need to choose what women do with their bodies. Full stop. Is his heart in the right place? Sure. Is it fantastic that he doesn’t think she needs shapewear? Sure. But you know who needs to get to a place where shapewear doesn’t matter? Zeynep! You know who needs to decide that shapewear is a thing to be burned? Zeynep! This isn’t Josip’s thing to burn or not burn. This tool of the patriarchy doesn’t get to then be broken or said it’s useless by another man. I know I go on about these kinds of things a lot when they’re small points in movies, but it always irks me. And it’s still a form of control if a man is telling a woman that she doesn’t need to do something with her body. 

Zeynep and Conrad at  restaurant table covered in a checked cloth as both take a shot of a clear liquid.
Josip in a blue shirt leaning on the bar as he works, staring intently toward Zeynep as she drinks with Conrad.
Oooooh. Just look Emotionally Unavailable Josip watching Zeynep and slimy Conrad veeeery carefully.
Zeynep looking straight ahead with no makeup on. She has visible wrinkles and signs of aging.
Excuse me! Can we talk again how fantastic it is to have a movie with this woman—and all her gorgeous signs of having lived as long as she hasas the lead?!?
Josip carrying Zeynep home over his shoulder at night.

Don’t get the wrong idea, though, Zeynep is no shrinking violet. I mean, this is a woman who got finally fed up with her life and her husband laughing with a younger woman and just got up and went to another country, after all.  Josip burning her shapewear is also a set up for a later act of retaliation from her. When Josip gets jealous and calls another man Macron for kissing her, she takes him to task for the absolutely bullshit and sexist narrative that there’s something wrong with a younger man and older woman, until he finally admits what he knew was wrong all along. In another part, which made me snort with laughter, Josip tells Zeynep that he has something to show her and to tell her and to give her. She watches him warily before asking, “How do I know at least one of those things isn’t your penis?” It’s a perfect line, and one that I’m not sure would land as well with younger characters. It works as well as it does because these people are careworn, thicker, lined humans who can just blurt out those kinds of things to each other, because time has worn away the filters. After he makes an important admission and gives her a very heartfelt gift he asks, “Better than a penis?” To which she responds, “So much better than a penis.” I don’t know. It’s funny, but it’s also a real level of communication conveyed here that hints at a relationship built on mutual respect and openness. 

As Zeynep spends more time on Croatia, she learns about her mother, herself, and what it means to be truly happy. While a lot of the movie follows the tried and true rom-com formula, it makes room to explore what it means for a woman to seek and find happiness for herself, what it means to choose to let the light into her own life and stop living only for other people’s joy. There is also an element there of mothers and daughters learning to give and take from each other what they need, even when they are very different. All of this means that the focus isn’t solely on the will-they-won’t-they tension between Zeynep and Josip, which is there and palpable and fun, but, again, feels like something that is also happening, instead of the ONLY thing that is happening. If that makes sense. 

Zeynep in a long blue dress standing on a flat rocky mountain top looking out over the ocean.

Now, I have to tell you that there is a testosterone-fueled melee that ensues at one point, which I very much could have done without, and adds unnecessary time to the movie. And yes, I get that it’s very much tongue-in-cheek and seems to be making fun of testosterone-fueled melees. It’s just that testosterone-fueled melees are so, so boring, even when they’re played for laughs, and it just takes so damn long to fish my eye-balls out of the back of my head after watching grown men tussle on the ground with each other over women that aren’t theirs to tussle over anyway. 

Anyway, I think that, overall, this movie is excellent to watch when you feel like the world is getting a little too grey and oppressive and you need to escape into something sweet, gentle, and funny, where women get better with age and the views are breathtaking. Also, this movie makes excellent use of a goat as a vehicle for occasional humor. Really doesn’t overplay its goat, which is very rare. Points for that, for sure.

Overall Rating on the Chronically Streaming Pain Scale:

1-Comfortable: Maybe there are some annoying twinges here and there, but overall the good outweighs the bad.

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