Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Distant is a lugubriously paced reflection on modern urban life. Ceylan captures his story in bleakly beautiful images and portraits of the two struggling main characters that convey tremendous sadness, despite an underlying dry wit (as demonstrated in the bits of business involving efforts to trap a mouse that plagues Mahmut's Muzaffer Özdemir apartment) and restraint that keeps the film from becoming maudlin. It's a painstaking character study, and Ceylan lets the details of these characters' lives build slowly. Yusuf (Mehmet Emin Toprak, who died in a car accident shortly after the film was made) is good-natured, but naïve, and he doesn't understand the importance Mahmut places in having things a certain way. Mahmut seems cold and somewhat pretentious, and it's only in the film's final third that Ceylan gives us an inkling of why he behaves the way he does. These are wonderful characters and often great fun to watch, as in the scene where Mahmut is watching Tarkovsky's Stalker late one night, while Yusuf sits with him, bored at the repetitive and uneventful images onscreen. Eventually, Yusuf goes to bed, and Mahmut's own prurient interests come to light. Ceylan allows the characters room to breathe within the forbidding setting, whether it's Mahmut's anally tidy apartment or the frozen streets of Istanbul. The tale has a deceptive, emotional complexity that builds to a surprisingly heartrending impact.