Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan wrote, directed, photographed, and co-edited this drama set in contemporary Istanbul. It revolves around two men who play the role of host and guest. As the story evolves, we see in graphic detail the importance of little acts of kindness and courtesy. Anyone who has ever had guests stay with them for a while knows the pressure of adapting to their habits, foibles, and obsessions. On the other hand, we have all been guests in the homes of others and know the effort that must be made to accommodate ourselves to their rules and style of living. This marvelous film zeroes in on the inherent challenges of being a host and a guest.

Yusuf (Mehmet Emin Toprak), along with his father and a thousand others, lost his job when the factory in their community closed down. Convinced that he can find a job aboard a ship and enjoy the benefits of both travel and good money, he goes to Istanbul. The first sign that things might not be as rosy as he hopes is that Mahmut (Muzaffer Ozdemir), a relative from his village, is not at home when he gets there. It seems that Mahmut forgot he was coming. This melancholy middle-aged man is a successful photographer who lives in a comfortable apartment. He is very much a loner who enjoys his solitude. He has a keen sense of smell and is bothered by a mouse in the kitchen that has eluded the sticky trap on the floor.

Yusuf soon discovers that there are no jobs on ships available. He spends his days aimlessly wandering the streets. Very lonely, he starts following women who strike his fancy but is unable to muster the courage to talk to them. Mahmut sees a woman for sex but misses Nazan (Zuhal Gencer Erkaya), his ex-wife who has married another man and is about to move to Canada. On the day of her departure, he goes to the airport, hiding nervously behind a column so he can watch her leave. In one of the film's humorous moments, Mahmut puts on a porn video after his guest goes to bed but Yusuf surprises him by entering the room and forcing him to turn off the video.

Distant is an interesting film about the insecurities, habits, and expectations that keep us from connecting with those around us. It also portrays the urban loneliness that can isolate individuals despite their deep yearning for intimacy. Best of all, the drama conveys how hard it is to practice hospitality, especially when we are set in our ways and have told ourselves stories about what we need and how others only intrude upon our private space. Mahmut's patience runs out when Yusuf's slovenliness gets to him: cigarette ashes on a table, the smell of his shoes left by the door, and his constant smoking. The scene is doubly painful since the uncouth visitor has already realized that there is no future for him in Istanbul. The shame and humiliation of unemployment is also convincingly evoked in this thematically rich Turkish film.