Girl with No Mouth is the new film from Turkish director Can Evernol. You may remember he made quite a splash with his debut film, the bizarre and brutal Baskin. His follow up, Housewife, may have been just a little too bizarre as it didn’t get the same kind of acclaim. Since then he’s done some work for TV and a segment of The Field Guide to Evil. Now he’s back with what may be his strangest film yet, “A grim, post apocalyptic fairy tale for the whole family”.
Ten years after the explosion at “The Corporation” Perihan (Elif Sevinç) is a normal little girl who lives with her father (Sermet Yesil) and likes to play in the woods. She also has no mouth, which makes her a target for The Corporation’s goons. Those goons include her Uncle Kemal (Mehmet Yilmaz Ak).
After Kemal kills her father and her dog Peri flees into the woods, crossing the river something that was previously forbidden. There she meets three other children who, like her, suffer from birth defects. Captain (Denizhan Akbaba) who has no eyes, Yusuf (Özgür Civelek) who has no nose and the earless Badger (Kaan Alpdayi).
They call themselves The Pirates and hide from the hunters The Corporation sends after them to cover up the birth defects caused by the explosion. When the hunters destroy their camp they head out on an adventure to find The Lost City.
Girl with No Mouth tries to walk the line between a children’s story and a more adult film. And to a degree it succeeds in taking the structure of a fairy tale. Only with The Corporation and its goons replacing the traditional Wicked Queen and her minions. Powering a light bulb with a potato becomes wizardry. And Özay Fecht delivers quite a few good moments as the film’s version of the menacing creature who turns out to be an ally.
But at the same time the film is a grim indictment of corporate greed and malfeasance. For those old enough to remember it, the parallels between Girl with No Mouth’s unexplained disaster and what happened in places like Bhopal are obvious. Evernol makes his points without beating you over the head with them. He just sets them into the plot and lets you put the pieces together yourself.
There is an atmosphere of adventure and a lesson about friendship and working together for the kids. But while some of the more disturbing events are kept off-screen, Girl with No Mouth is not for the whole family. There’s still enough to upset younger kids and probably some of the more sensitive older ones.
And on the opposite end of the spectrum, anyone expecting the violence of Baskin or the sexual content of Housewife is going to be disappointed. Evernol has dialled all of that way back here. There’s not even anything that could be called horror. This may turn off a lot of fans of his previous work if they don’t know that going in.
The resulting film still held my interest and I found a lot to enjoy about it. But at the same time, I could also see where it limits and undercuts itself. Girl with No Mouth probably would have been better as either a full-on kids film or a darker, more adult tale. Given the age of its leads, a kids’ version would probably have worked best.