Today: April 11, 2024

London River

Franco-Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb’s London River
is the compelling drama that stars Brenda Blethyn and Sotigui Kouyate as two
parents in search of their missing children in London after the 7/7 terrorist
attack. A startlingly accurate, yet sensitive, portrait of the tragic
circumstances with superb performances.

 

London River will have you weeping from the opening scenes
in which neurotic mother Elizabeth played by Brenda Blethyn (Secrets & Lies) leaves a casual voicemail message on her
daughter’s mobile phone, letting her know that there has been in a bombing
central London as the news flashes up on her television. A film based on the
real-life event when the London experienced its first terrorist attack on 7
July 2005.

 

The sense of dread is already hanging in the air, at
least for the cinema audience
, as
Elizabeth leaves one message after another in blind denial that it is a
possibility that her daughter could have been killed in the blast. She becomes
increasingly anxious and heads off to London in search of her offspring but the
Little Englander soon finds herself out of her usual comfort zone.

 

From the other side of the
channel, arrives Ousmane (Kouyate), an
elderly African forester working in France, to find a son he has not seen since
the boy was six in Africa.

 

The parents’ search for their kin through London runs
parallel and their paths continue to overlap as Elizabeth waits it out in her
daughter’s apartment that, to her surprise, is in a Muslim neighborhood; whilst
Ousmane stays in a cheap hotel. It soon transpires that their respective
offspring were a couple. What is not known is whether are they dead or alive.

 

Whilst the film is set around the tragic circumstances, the
central core is about two people of two different cultures are brought
together; a black Muslim father and a white Christian mother in search for
their children in the UK 7/7 bombing aftermath. The xenophobia is subtly
portrayed in Blethyn’s effectively anguished performance.

 

Elizabeth now finds herself in a multiracial society far
from the whiter, isolated Channel Isles and discovers that not only was her
daughter living with Ousmane’s son, ahe was also learning Arabic. Possibly
meeting Muslims for the first time, she blurts out: ‘I mean, who speaks Arabic?’

 

It is clear that Elizabeth is not a racist but a person
who has had little exposure to an urban multi-ethnic world. ‘This place is
absolutely crawling with Muslims!’
she blusters, without melodrama. Well,
welcome to the metropolis, Elizabeth. The mother is simply wary but her fear
soon dilutes as the two parents seek support and comfort from each other,
whilst on their quest for answers.

 

What makes the film all the more poignant is the Malian
screen star Sotigui Kouyate, who was named best actor at the Berlin Film
Festival last year for hi role, has since died in Paris at the age of 74, in
April earlier this year. His second film with Rachid Bouchareb, after 2001’s Little
Senegal
, his accolade is well deserved as
he portrays the dignified father who does not know whether his son is dead or
alive, but also carries the additional burden of the suspicion that his son
could be a terrorist.

 

Bouchareb (Days Of Glory) delivers a beautifully detailed film, both well written and directed.
A heart-breaking drama without the scmaltz one would expect around a topic such
as this. Highly recommended – and don’t forget the hankies!

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia, who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years, is the Publishing Editor of KOL Social Magazine. See website: thekolsocial.com

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