Distinguished by its vivid sense of place shown in the stark, arrestingly photographed landscapes of Zeeland island, off Holland’s southwest coast, “Wild Mussels” is a soulful story of friends torn between the powerful pull of the outside world and indissoluble ties to their isolated homeland. A critical hit in the Netherlands, actor-turned-director Erik de Bruyn’s confident debut could have used a tighter, more focused script, but its universal themes and subdued humor should connect with festival audiences.
Frustrated with his nowhere existence but lacking the will to change it, twentysomething Leen (Fedja van Huet) hangs out with two similarly restless locals (Frank Lammers, Freek Brom), who play in a rock band. An enigmatic encounter plants the escape destination of Dublin in Leen’s head. But the god-forsaken fishing village has a stronger hold over him than he realizes, as does his lonely mother (Will van Kralingen). Inspired by his own youth in Zeeland, de Bruyn, along with his cast, creates interesting characters but keeps them at a distance that muffles the drama’s emotional impact.