‘You Do You’ (Original title: Merve Kült) is a Turkish-language Netflix film written by Ceylan Naz Baycan and directed by Cemal Alpan. It follows the journey of a 25-year-old fashion enthusiast, Merve (played by Ahsen Eroglu). Her ex-lawyer mother, Nevra (played by Zuhal Olcay), expects her to be a working professional. After all, Merve has a degree in business. It’s about time she puts it to good use, right?
But Merve is passionate about her craft in fashion. She is not interested to lead a life driven by money and capitalistic ambitions but in following her creative pursuit. On one of her job interviews, she even tells that to her interviewers. So predictably, she does not get hired.
However, there is another reason why Nevra wants Merve to start earning. They are told to vacate the building where they have lived for decades. Nevra took the keys to this place after distancing herself from her husband, who went on to have an affair. Even if he lives with that woman and their child, Nevra has not divorced the man yet. She is stubborn not to let him have that satisfaction. On the downside, she cannot even have a say in the property deal.
Merve is understandably not happy with the change in her life. But much of her reasoning for not being a part of this bureaucratic cycle seems to stem from social media arguments that have very little understanding about what they are standing for or standing against.
Merve speaks about capitalistic cash-grab jobs while benefiting from social media that monetizes looks and appearances. While we may see her social media profile as an extension of her creativity, we cannot deny how entwined it is with the things she supposedly stands against.
However, Merve’s naivety does not feel too silly in the context of age or working experience. From the way the script presents her, her job for Anil Gürman (played by Ozan Dolunay) is apparently her first. While she plans to work somewhere, her friends suggest a dating app idea where you will reveal more because you are anonymous, under a mask. This is the script’s attempt at being cerebral about the lack of emotional intimacy.
There are existing dating apps that can easily add it as a ‘feature’ in their user interface. Apps like Reddit or Letterboxd can also turn themselves into dating apps through their anonymous profiles. Nevertheless, Merve and her friends consider their idea as a part of their ‘creative genius.’
Does it somehow comment on how we keep celebrating mediocrity because of its glossy packaging? Does it directly comment on the familiar hollowness of the film’s plot? Perhaps!
After all, ‘You Do You’ follows a set of familiar themes through its familiar plot. It speaks about individuality through how Merve presents herself online and carves a way for herself. The film’s title is her slogan – which is already used by several fashion brands to sell their stuff while appeasing a customer for ‘who they are.’ The script fails to explore this theme to its full extent.
Even the outfits speak very little about what You Do You attempt to preach. Are we just supposed to clap at Merve’s win like the audience because she reached there after grueling practice at her work? The emotional reasoning just does not feel convincing enough.
While Merve detested corporate politics in the early days, she learned how to use it for her own benefit. She becomes a part of the same system she was supposedly against – because, unfortunately, that is how you rise to these ranks. Who knows?
With Anil’s entry into Merve’s life, revenge becomes another addition to its themes. However, this aspect feels stale and overdone to the point it becomes predictable from miles afar. You know the sweet outcome the moment you are introduced to who wants revenge and why. Besides, the script attempts to speak about the financial disparity but fails to make us empathize with its characters or say anything worthwhile.
There are a few spots where it manages to resonate. Merve and Nevra become assertive in different aspects of their lives to get what they want. It rings true, especially in the context of gender disparity in almost every profession. The acting performances sell this aspect to their best potential.
But neither its script nor direction manage to add any conceivable depth to its themes. So, while you may not get bored watching the film, it will leave your mind within moments after the ending.