Beyto (Burak Ates) has eyes for Mike (Dimitri Stapher). The former is a rising star on his swim team and the latter is the coach who cheers him on. Sprinting lanes in the pool and running laps at the gym lets the boys develop a relationship while checking out the other’s toned swimmer’s bod. Beyto, the son of Turkish migrants, isn’t yet out. Mike, however, plainly is. He doesn’t mind letting his teammate know that he’s thirsty. When Mike, a grocer, drops veggies off at the restaurant run by Beyto’s parents, he salaciously fondles a carrot. With nary a word, Beyto gives Mike the tip about where he’d like him to put it.
As Beyto and Mike discover one another intimately, Beyto puts a refreshing perspective on a familiar coming out narrative. Beyto hides his sexuality from his conservative parents, which obviously bothers Mike. However, as Mike introduces Beyto to a larger circle of gay friends and takes him to a Swiss Pride parade (arguably the saddest, sparsest Pride parade ever put on film), he approaches the point of being confident to come out to his parents. There’s just one problem: they have their suspicions and call his bluff.
Beyto Breaks Free
A dramatic twist puts Beyto in a bind, but others too, as his parents perpetuate a cycle of unhappiness. Writer/director Gitta Gsell crafts a touching story about the heartbreak that occurs when people can’t choose their own fates. Moreover, the film also speaks to women’s rights and agency as Beyto’s parents force a cruel fate upon his friend and cousin Seher (Ecem Aydin), who just wants to study and lead an independent life to which she can only aspire back home in Turkey. Yet as the younger generation navigates its shared desire to break free from their parents’ suffocating mores, the young man and the implicated parties find an unexpected compromise.
Although the Beyto’s conclusion with the young characters’ fate may strike some audiences as problematic and conservative, Gsell nevertheless emphasizes the importance of openness and communication in intimate relationships. Touching performances fuel this frank portrait that shares the intersection of queerness and immigrant identities. Ates and Stapher have a tangible spark as Beyto and Mike, creating a tender relationship that imbues the film with a sense of longing whenever they’re apart. Gsell’s film sensitively engages with the clash of values that arises when parents don’t accept the values of the land in which they raise their children.
Beyto screens at Toronto’s Inside Out LGBTQ Film Festival through June 6.