The coming-of-age gay drama is practically old hat at this point, so what more can Turkish drama Not Knowing add to the conversation? The answer, it seems, is quite significant. The film from writer/director Leyla Yilmaz goes to some dark places, as it explores the effects of bullying on a young gay teen and his family. Emir Ozden plays Umut, an aspiring water polo athlete whose teammates begin to turn on him once they suspect he may be concealing his sexuality. Umut’s parents, Selma (Senan Kara) and Sinan (Yurdaer Okur), are coping with struggles of their own, putting all their hopes and dreams into a potential water polo scholarship for Umut. Umut is put between a rock and a hard place, as his quiet existence is forcibly altered the further interaction he has with his homophobic team.
The adult drama is moderately boring, while the school quarrels and constant use of gay slurs is another beast entirely. This is very hard to watch at times. Bullying and hardships used to be the only aspects of gay life cinematically portrayed, so in a way it feels like Not Knowing is backpedaling into the wallowing sorrow of older fare. Still, this is an important story that deserves to be told. Just because it exists in a deeply sad space does not lessen the merits of its more potent messaging. There are nice people in Umut’s life too, like the coach who does not care about his sexuality whatsoever, or his close friend who seems rather supportive despite a long line of questioning.
Seeing Umut driven to extremes to escape an impossibly complicated scenario is simply heartbreaking. The film’s title, Not Knowing, turns out to be an eerie moniker that really only comes into play in the film’s home stretch. In this way, it can be rather unsatisfying, providing little in the way of answers or closure. The abrupt ending does not give any sort of catharsis. Then again, what would one expect? Not Knowing pointedly deals with the dark and tragic realism facing many modern families grappling with sexuality.
Not Knowing hunts for answers when it comes to DVD on Tuesday, December 14th.