One of the specialties of Turkish cinema is tearjerkers. A classic example is Ayla: The Daughter of War. Miracle of Cell No. 7, about a mentally disabled father who is falsely convicted of murder, is a popular addition to the genre.
The origin of the story comes from South Korea, where, in 1982, a man was tortured into confessing to the murder of a little girl even though he was innocent. In 2008 the man was exonerated. This inspired a 2013 South Korean film about a mentally disabled father of a 6-year-old who is falsely convicted of murdering a girl. The success of the Korean film inspired approved remakes in the Philippines and Indonesia and an unauthorized version in India. But it is the 2019 Turkish remake that became a real international hit, even being picked up by Netflix. The Turkish version (Yedinci Kogustaki Mucize) is considerably more complex than the others, with more tear-jerking plot twists.
Memo (Aras Bulut Iynemli) is an adult with the mental development of a 6-year-old. He lives with his 6-year-old daughter, Ova, and with his own mother. When Ova, who loves her father, asks Grandma why her daddy is different from the other daddies, Grandma answers that it’s because Ova and her father are the same age, an explanation that makes Ova happy.
A schoolmate of Ova’s falls off of a rock face and dies. Memo tries to save her, but it is too late. He is discovered with the child’s body in his arms. Unfortunately for Memo, the dead girl’s father is a military commander, and he makes sure that Memo is convicted of murder and imprisoned. Memo is immediately almost beaten to death by his fellow prisoners, who draw the line at men who murder children. Gradually, the other prisoners in his dormitory take a liking to Memo and begin to suspect that he is really innocent. In addition, Ova stumbles across a witness to the accident, whose testimony could clear her father. However, this witness happens to be a deserter from the army and, as soon as Ova discovers him, he disappears.
Eventually, the prisoners and their supporters from the outside smuggle Ova into the prison so that she and her father can reunite. Of course she is discovered by the authorities. And Memo is sentenced to death by hanging. But there are a lot of twists to come.
One of the most satisfying aspects of Miracle of Cell No. 7 is the theme of redemption, the reminder that people who have committed crimes, as well as prison authorities, can change and see their own actions and the actions of others in ways that are the opposite of their own first impressions.
Is Miracle of Cell No. 7 corny and manipulative? Sure. But if you like tearjerkers, you can’t go wrong with this one.