Culture, obligation and tradition combine and clash in the deeply engaging drama Kuma, where becoming part of a family can have very negative consequences.

Ayse (Begüm Akkaya) is getting married in her home village in Turkey, but she will not remain there for long, as she is to move with her new husband Hasan (Murathan Muslu) to his home in Vienna, where he lives with his mother Fatma (Nihal G. Koldas), father Mustafa (Vedat Erincin) and his many siblings. Ayse has to cope with a new language as well as cultural differences in her new country, even if she is part of the Turkish community there. But more than that, she has to deal with the expectations of her marriage to Hasan, a man she didn’t really know until they wed. For Ayse’s wifely duties extend beyond those to her wedded husband as she is actually destined to be kuma, second wife to her father-in-law Mustafa. It’s an awful lot to come to terms with, residing in a house where her real husband seems, if not rude, at least a little indifferent and Hasan’s sisters treat her with contempt, mocking her rural origins even as they struggle to come to terms with their domineering mother’s insistence that Ayse becomes second wife to their father. Fatma devised the idea of Ayse becoming Mustafa’s kuma because she is battling cancer and fears that her own life will be short. Ayse, barely older than Fatma’s daughters, is to be their new mother.

The collision of cultures is one of the central premises of Kuma even if the characters don’t seek to be confrontational. Ayse has a multitude of issues to have to contend with – her marriage was conceived for her and it soon becomes apparent that this was just a front for Fatma’s desire for her to become kuma, something accentuated by her actual registered husband’s eventual reasons for ignoring her. Coupled with this is her new location in Europe, where she needs to learn a new language and comply with laws that are different to those of her own country. Fatma’s desire for her to become kuma to Mustafa is illegal in Austrian law and it defies what Ayse conceived to be the purpose of her marriage with Hasan. Ayse is immensely likeable but she is a fish out of water and the film excels in addressing all the issues associated with her predicament. Even if certain plot revelations are apparent in the development of the narrative, their revelation for the central character are intrinsic to her way of dealing with her seemingly endless dilemma.

The first feature film from Umut Dag, who also wrote the story, Kuma is a thoroughly engaging drama. Passions and persuasion mix in a world where expectations often conflict with desires.

Kuma is release in UK cinemas on 16th August.