The Club takes its time, but invests it wisely in well-rounded characters and a richly detailed setting, making for a compelling story and a strong payoff.
This review of The Club Part 1 is spoiler-free.
Netflix doesn’t exactly have an abundance of Turkish content, but what’s there, from The Gift to Ethos, tends to share some similarities. There’s a strong sense of cultural specificity, for instance, often a slow pace, and a high quality of character writing, especially when it comes to unpacking essential relationships such as, say, the one between parent and child. This is all to say that The Club, Part 1 of which is now streaming on Netflix, feels of a piece with other media from the region. It’s a slow-burn, layered drama about a mother, Matilda (Gökçe Bahadir), reuniting with her estranged daughter Rasel (Asude Kalebek) after many years, as both try to navigate not just their relationship with one another but their surroundings and circumstances.
In a way, this isn’t ideal for a global audience, who typically want certain things that The Club isn’t interested in providing. But the story touches on so many universal themes, from family and friendship to romance, politics, and religion, that it can’t help but be broadly appealing anyway. The steady rhythm is ultimately to the show’s benefit. Time spent with the characters, who are often unpacked in flashbacks and from differing perspectives, pays off in the long run as the drama solidifies.
And it’s all occurring against the beautiful backdrop of 1950s Istanbul, an evidently well-researched and well-rendered simulacrum of one of the world’s great cultural hubs. The handsome production design is a compliment to the mature writing, performances, and themes; this isn’t pop entertainment, but a thoughtful exploration of a relationship made fraught by absence, mistruths, mistrust, and untenable circumstances.
This means characterizing both Matilda and Rasel as three-dimensional, flawed people, not always likable but usually believable, some instances of slightly wooden dialogue notwithstanding. Through them, The Club fleshes out its setting and several other peripheral characters who float in and out of the central dynamic, the ostensible true story on which the show is based coming through most strongly in notes of detail and authenticity that speak to the specificity I mentioned at the top. It won’t do major numbers, but those it does attract will be well-served by six episodes of compelling drama.