There’s something for both adults and children in “The Boy Who Stopped Talking,” a rare example of a kidpic made with the intelligence and care of a grown-up movie. Mostly avoiding political preachiness, this touching tale of a Kurdish refugee boy who has trouble adjusting to a life in the West is a quality item for cable and Eurowebs.
The uncomplicated village existence of Memo (winningly played by Ercan Orhan) is ended when his father (Brader Musiki), worried by Turkish aggression toward Kurdish areas, brings the family to Holland, where he’s a dock worker. In a fit of childish rebellion, Memo decides to stop talking, even in school where he’s already an outsider. Through his friendship with a nerdy Dutch boy (Louis Ates), Memo starts to grow used to his new surroundings, but his self-imposed vow of silence is severely tested when a friend of his father’s who’s an illegal immigrant (Celil Toksoz) falls afoul of the police, and his dad later has a heart attack.
Only once, when Memo’s sympathetic teacher (the excellent Heleen Himmelen) lectures her class on the Kurds, does the pic adopt a “right-on” political stance. Otherwise, this is a movie of well-observed relationships, small moments (especially between the two main kids), and inventive touches, such as Memo observing life outside his house through a cinema screen-like window.
Nizamettin Aric’s simple, Anatolian-flavored score supports the overall fine craftsmanship, both behind and in front of the camera. Though set in Holland and eastern Turkey, pic was actually shot in Belgium and Morocco.