Movie Review: London River

Movie Review: London River


July 7 bombings through the eyes of desperate parents

There’s an immediate disconnect that comes as this film ends – why has a director chosen to use the tragedy of the July 7th London bombings against which to set a film – almost entirely in French – which is compelling enough on performance alone not to need them there in the first place?

It’s not a question everyone will need answered, but it seems that with the climate of mistrust around the subject of Islam, with a film that beautifully explores the tentative subtle relationship between a French Muslim and an English Christian woman both searching for their missing children might have been enough without politicising it as well. Lucky that the film is helmed by French-Algerian director [b]Rachid Bouchareb[/b] ([i]Days of Glory[/i]) rather than a big Hollywood studio intent on showing the side of the matter we’re all aware of anyway – things could have gone so horribly wrong.

But it matters little – this film is about performances and unlikely relationships, and the two leads, [b]Brenda Blethyn[/b] and [b]Sotigui Kouyaté[/b], are undeniably superb and subtle in the gentle buildup of their friendship born from frustration, desperation and the anguish of an impotent parent. [b]Blethyn[/b] is [b]Elizabeth[/b], a Guernsey woman whose daughter hasn’t returned her calls since July 7, while [b]Ousmane[/b] (a tremendously moving [b]Kouyaté[/b]), an elderly dreadlocked French Algerian is searching for his absent son. Together, their search forms the dignified, terribly sad heart of the film.

At the risk of being offensive on all sides, there are stereotypes here that do little to ground this film in the gritty reality the director is clearly striving for – no one group of people will collectively behave the same way, unless drugged, and his portrayal of North London Muslims without the least bit of anger, dissention of mistrust in the wake of an event that had such a huge impact on their lives in England is, at least too easy, and at worst, dishonest.

A stellar performance from [b]Brenda Blethyn[/b] is almost a given, and she doesn’t disappoint here, handling moments that even she must have found awkward to portray – certainly the depiction of her horror at the idea of a black man is more than a little offensive to small towners? Still, it’s to her credit that [b]Blethyn[/b] never alienates the audience, despite this, and manages to prioritise the subtly beautiful relationship between the suffering duo. Without it, the film is less than the sum of its parts perhaps, but it’s worth seeing for this most interesting of partnerships alone.