All-In Review: Identity at a Crossroads

All-In is an upstairs, downstairs study of two migrant workers and one prospers and the the other doesn’t.

3 mins read

At the beginning of the Turkish tourist season, Ismael and Hakan, two young men from small villages are taken on as apprentices at a Mediterranean all-inclusive hotel. In their first Human Resources interviews, Ishmael, 18, shy and gentle, says his goal is to send money back home to his family. Hakan, in his mid-twenties, says he believes the work will help him overcome his social anxiety and provide him a gateway to his real desire: To emigrate to America and make movies. For both of them, it’s their first real job.

The Human Resources manager at the hotel sees himself as a mentor and guidance counsellor to the new recruits, helping to turn these young rubes into faultlessly subservient employees and, perhaps, eventually career hoteliers. He asks that each new employee take a picture of himself and put it in their dorm room, so they can compare how they have grown over the course of the summer season.

Ismael is assigned to the kitchen, where his first lesson is how to make various kinds of soup; later, he is promoted to ladling out food at the staff buffet table. Hakan takes a job at the poolside, as a lifeguard, which, in reality, means he spends his days pushing people on rubber rafts down the tunnel slide into a pool. One apprentice prospers, the other doesn’t.

All-In is, in some respects, predictable, an upstairs-downstairs case study, in which the poor locals feel inferiority and envy through their contact with the wealthy carefree international visitors at the resort. Back in the worker’s dorm, the workers admire the guests’ friendly easy lives. They dream of living abroad, perhaps becoming rich enough to enjoy an all-inclusive vacation. In a late scene (which feels staged for the film), Ismael and a friend dress up into their best clothes, sneak into a performance for the guests, and use the hotel pool.

In the case of the eccentric Hakan, the film’s thesis becomes less coherent and more interesting. He arrives at the hotel, carrying a stack of books and name-dropping Nietzsche and Schopenhauer to his roommates. He rolls his eyes at their limited knowledge, makes dark jokes about suicide and gambles away his earnings like his hero, the Russian novelist, Fyodor Dostoevsky. One could argue that Hakan is an extreme case of Turkish xenocentrism but that denies his determined individuality. Hakan plays the anti-hero of his own romantic existential story, a role no doubt reinforced by finding himself as the subject of film.

All-In premieres at Hot Docs on April 29, 10 a.m.

Visit the POV Hot Docs Hub for more coverage from this year’s festival!


Liam Lacey is a freelance writer for and POV, Canada’s premiere magazine about documentaries and independent films.

Previously, he was a film critic for The Globe and Mail newspaper from 1995 to 2015. He has also contributed to such publications as Variety, Cinema Scope, Screen, and Entertainment Weekly, as well as broadcast outlets CBC and National Public Radio.

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