Based on a novel by award-winning writer Yusuf Yesiloz, Beyto offers a queer-centric narrative featuring a young Muslim queer man, of Turkish descent, trying to figure out his life when he falls in love with a Swiss man named Mike.
I was provided with a free digital screener of Beyto for review. The opinions I have shared are my own.
This review of Beyto contains spoilers. You have been warned!
Just to make things clear, I haven’t read Yesiloz’s novel Hochzeitsflug to really judge if the live-action adaptation did it justice or not. If you have read the novel and watched Beyto, please feel free to share your thought below.
The story featured in Beyto is an interesting one. Directed and written by Gitta Gsell, there are a lot of themes at play. We have a multicultural love story that has a lot of emotion and messiness. The narrative talks about homophobia, the conflicts children of immigrants face while growing up in a different country, yearning to embrace one’s true nature, searching for a sense of freedom, and more.
Our main lead is a young man named Beyto (Burak Ates). He’s basically perfect. He’s a good son to his parents, is a star swimmer, and always gets good grades. However, things change when Beyto falls in love with a guy: his new young coach, named Mike (Dimitri Stapfer). Due to Beyto being in the closet, he can’t be as open about his relationship with Mike as he would like to be. Mike is understanding of Beyto’s predicament. But Beyto’s secret is revealed when he’s seen attending a local Pride Parade by his mother’s friends.
One of the things I liked about the story is how the parents more or less always suspected that Beyto wasn’t straight but they never talked about it with him. After becoming a couple with Mike, Beyto does mention queer couples to his mother Narin (Beren Tuna) only to be instantly shut down by her. In my opinion, that particular scene was well-written. You could clearly see it in Narin’s face that she knew what was up with her son.
With Beyto’s secret out (which Narin insisted wasn’t true in front of her friends) his parents take control of his life and fly him to Turkey to meet his relatives. What Beyto doesn’t know is that his parents have planned to marry him off to his childhood friend Seher (Ecem Aydin) without telling him. I really liked seeing the disbelief on Beyto’s face when he found out about his upcoming marriage from his Turkish friends. The shock allowed him to come out to his parents and declare his love for Mike. But alas, he would still have to go through with the marriage to save the family’s reputation and stop his father from burning his passport. Refusing to marry Seher at this point would also ruin her reputation in the village, too.
Narin lovingly helping Beyto get ready for his wedding was another well-written scene. She knew she was in the wrong. She knew her decision was causing her only son pain, but, in her mind, having Beyto marry Seher was the only option. Narin’s conversation with Beyto about how love wasn’t necessary to make a marriage work was another well-written scene. Yes, Beyto’s in love with Mike, but he needed to marry a woman because that’s what was expected of him.
For people like Narin and her husband Seyit (Serkan Tastemur), it was tough to break away from tradition. While running a small kebab shop in Switzerland, they had created a little Turkey of their own. But while they were content remembering their time in Turkey, Beyto continued to feel conflicted in a household that wanted him to remain true to his Turkish roots while growing up in a very different Swiss society. He wasn’t Swiss enough in Switzerland and his friends back in Turkey made fun of how he had changed and wasn’t Turkish enough.
While Beyto’s trying to find the freedom to be his authentic queer self and stay with Mike, Seher’s in a similar place, too. Having grown up in a small Turkish village, she dreams of continuing her studies. She’s in love with Beyto, but she also wants to marry him because he can give her a better life abroad. Wanting a new life, with more freedom, plays a role in her being accepting of Beyto being gay and in love with Mike.
At first, I thought Beyto was going to be another movie about a bisexual character wanting everything. I was expecting Beyto to want a relationship with Mike and Seher. I’m personally tired of narratives featuring bisexual male characters who can’t make a choice and continue hurting their love interests because they want to be with both of them. Such narratives tend to put the blame on the love interests (usually a gay dude and a straight woman) for not loving the bisexual male character enough to agree to a compromise and accept a relationship where they both focus on satisfying the physical and emotional needs of the bisexual character.
Turns out, Beyto is indeed gay. That makes it easier for him, Mike, and Seher to figure out a way to move forward as a group. While the ending could seem a bit too convenient by certain people, I think it made sense for the characters involved. Staying with Beyto would give Seher the pathway to experience the freedom (in her academic and persona life) she wanted and Beyto could continue being with Mike. I also think Beyto and Seher were understanding of their respective situations because they had known each other since childhood and couldn’t really bring themselves to be angry at each other.
The lead characters did an impressive job in their respective roles. The fact that this is Ates’ first film role is just… wow. He did an incredible job portraying a very conflicted and helpless Beyto. Aydin also impressed me in her first feature film role.
The only complaint I have would be the runtime. This movie clocks in at approximately 1 hour 35 minutes. While that’s a suitable length to tell a story, I do feel that Beyto could have benefited from a longer runtime. Due to the themes being explored and the drama between the characters, things moved way too fast in my opinion.
I think we needed more time to develop Beyto and Mike’s romantic relationship. It just happened too fast. I found myself wondering why Mike, an out and proud gay man, was so heartbroken over a closeted guy he met a few days ago. More scenes between the two could have helped with developing their relationship and explain why Mike didn’t just walk away.
From Dark Star Pictures, the award-winning Beyto is currently available on DVD and Digital. I think you should consider watching it this weekend if you’re in the mood to watch a queer romantic drama that explores some heavy themes while delivering a happy ending.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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