Two poor Kurdish lads in Istanbul dream of going to Germany to make their fortune in the well-intentioned but one-note melodrama “Broken Mussels,” from debuting Turkish helmer Seyfettin Tokmak. Seemingly uncertain whether it wants to be contempo neorealism or a plucky children’s adventure, the screenplay by Kenan Kavut combines too many hot-button issues, some ill-timed comedy and not enough character development, leaving the film as stuck as its young protagonists. End result will have limited appeal to all but the least discriminating of fest audiences.
The story of cousins Hakim and Faysal intersects with other illegal immigrants’ in Istanbul’s Kumkapi quarter, in particular that of an ailing Bosnian teen (Ipek Kizilors), whose mother (Selma Alispahic) falls victim to an organ-trafficking gang. The boys, who long to sell mussels, unwittingly wind up working for sleazy Cevat (Engin Benli), the villain of the piece, who traffics in more than body parts. Awkward helming favors stagey setups and melodramatic performances, while the upbeat bluesy score from Swedish composer Fredrik Viklund creates an inappropriate mood. Only the misty waterfront locations strike the right note.