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Film Review: London River on DVD

Published 30 November 2010

London River, directed by Rachid Bouchareb, portrays the drama of the London terrorist attacks in 2005. Even though the movie intends to focus on the 7 July events, it is more about the basic fears and emotions we all possess rather than about the UK’s political or religious scene at that time.

The director builds upon the actors’ improvisation skills, body language and effective shots, and Brenda Blethyn and Sotigui Kouyaté proved their talent in all these. It feels less scripted and forced, and more improvised and real. This simplicity works perfectly with the topic and it is definitely illuminating to watch the movie. Throughout the film, the audience is urged to reflect and face their own prejudices.

Sotigui Kouyaté, the recently passed away Mali-born actor, belonged to the griot family whose members are storytellers, the guards of traditions among the Mandinka. As a kind of modern storyteller he decided to use his talent in the world of theatres and movies. The English actress Brenda Blethyn is renowned for her work in theatres and films too. The contrast of their characters, the small, widowed working mum and the tall and proud father also aims to emphasize the contrast of their lives which despite all the differences are strikingly very similar.

London River tells of a mother’s and a father’s quest for their children during the attacks in London. The mother is from the island of Guernsey with a daughter who lives in London, the father is from West Africa who had been living in France for a long time and left his son back in his home country, not even aware of his son’s migration to the UK. He learnt about this only when his family asks him to find their son after hearing about the terrorist attacks. The two parents’ paths cross each other, which might have never happened without the events of that particular day. Although their aim, their feelings and worries are the same, even sharing a similar profession, they approach one another with their guards up.

The fear of the unknown can be felt much stronger in the case of the Mum, who is deeply shocked when assembling the pieces of her daughter’s life. We do not know much about their past, but presumably, in the mother’s case, this fear might simply arise from not having close contact with people from different backgrounds. However, when they slowly realize that they need each other and so start to communicate with each other, this distance starts fading. From the beginning, when the Mom is so suspicious that she is not even able to accept the Father’s handshake, the film closes with their hug and her apologizing and returning thanks for his support.

In an interview with director Rachid Bouchareb, he says that the great problem of our generation is a lack of communication. The issue of prejudice the film brings to the surface could be solved and must be solved, but it should start at the level of personal relations. Only if everything is all right at that level can we think of the bigger picture.

London River was released on DVD in October 2010. Two online outlets where you can get it from are Amazon.co.uk and HMV. A trailer of the London River film is available on YouTube.