Not Knowing ****
Updated: Feb 3
Starring: Emir Ozden, Senan Kara, Yurdaer Okur, Lèvent Üzümcü
Director: Leyla Yilmaz
In an anonymous town in Turkey, Umut (Ozden) is committed to his waterpolo team, only to find them turn on him when a bully (Üzümcü) suspects he might be gay. Meanwhile his parents (Kara & Okur) are too distracted by their marital problems to notice that their son is being torn apart by this betrayal by his friends. As he refuses to confirm or deny their suspicions, his teammates attempt to have him thrown off the team.
In this nuanced and well-paced drama, what’s most refreshing is Umut’s insistence that the truth in their accusations are irrelevant. The team insist they have a right to know if he’s gay, but he realises quickly that their minds are already made up and he is object of a witch hunt. Subsequently the film hinges on the notion that it’s society’s notion of homosexuality that breeds homophobia, rather than its reality. And our lead sticks doggedly to his guns.
Young actor Emir Ozden does wonders with this part, staring wide-eyed and furious at the betrayal of his friends. Secretive but level-headed, his silence becomes a crusade as he maintains a tight-lipped silence. As a result, the film revolves around this accomplished performance, outshining his costars; the parents who each share a third of the screen time each until the dramatic final act.
As the simmering kettle of Umut’s life whistles to the boil, so too does the tension that is built without any music and hinges on the hyper-realism of its execution on screen. Though it restrains itself from revelling in the narrative’s real dramatic potential, it sits on the right side of a character study, with a good ladle of plot too. As a result, this is a strong offering with an awful lot to say, without ever raising its voice.
UK Release: 6th December 2021 on demand on Dekkoo, released by TLA Releasing.