A Family Drama
Writer-director Leyla Yilmaz’s “Not Knowing” is a Turkish family drama that explores the damning effect of rumors as the sexuality of a high school student.
Young water polo student Umut (Emir Ozden) is a quiet and conscientious high school student. After he intervenes to stop the bullying of a fellow student, he shares an emotional moment with the victim that leads to rumors about his sexuality. Umut refuses to deny the allegation, apologies or explain himself. He faces further unsettling dynamics at home where he does not get the support he desires.
The screenplay keeps the audience in the dark about numerous narrative developments, keeping much of character’s stories behind closed doors. Umut’s sexuality and his parents, Selma (Senan Kara) and Sinan (Yurdaer Okur)’s relationship issues are not given literal explorations – yet with sensitive, emotional direction we get a sense of the struggles they face. Whether this be Umut’s internal struggles through Ozden’s performance of few words or the hints at an unhappy marriage in Selma and Sinan’s relationship.
The film captures the anxieties and fears faced by queer youth – particularly in an age of social media and within the context of high school machismo. Ozden captures the fear of ‘being outed’ when the footage of him consoling the victim is leaked by another pupil. His strength of character gives a sense of his admirable qualities.
Selma and Sinan’s inability to get through to their son or to understand his conflict are the focus of the film’s latter act as Umut goes missing. Whilst Yilmaz keeps things naturally engaging through the ‘will he or won’t he return?’, the film’s contemplative tone sees the couple reflect on their own behavior and relationship and its role in their son’s disappearance.
It is the film’s contemplative tone, naturally understated yet hugely emotive character dynamics and direction, and skilled performances that make this a must-see.