An inspirational tale that doesn’t oversell its inspiration, Dani Menkin and Yonatan Nir’s Dolphin Boy documents the results of “dolphin therapy” on its eponymous subject, Morad, a boy from an Arab village in Israel, so severely beaten by his classmates over a misunderstanding involving a young woman that he has become entirely mute and unresponsive. Largely eschewing both narration and sentimentality, Menkin and Nir’s doc takes an observational approach to the material, following its nearly catatonic subject as his father whisks him off to the resort town of Eilat to interact with his new aquatic friends. The boy gradually starts responding as he builds a new life among the dolphin caretakers and is eventually willing to confront his past life and return home. The film can’t entirely avoid cashing in on its happy ending, but even when detailing some of the more emotionally charged moments, Menkin and Nir smartly keep their distance. Morad’s re-acceptance of his father, indicated by the still largely mute boy snuggling up to his old man around a campfire, is all the more affecting for the filmmakers’ decision to hang back and not add outside commentary. Dolphin Boy stands as an example of how the pitfalls of potentially mushy material can be overcome by smart and sensitive direction.
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