London River (2009) starring Brenda Blethyn, Sotigui Kouyaté, Francis Magee, Sami Bouajila, Roschdy Zem, Marc Baylis directed by Rachid Bouchareb Movie Review

London River (2009)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Brenda Blethyn as Elisabeth in London River (2009)

Soul Search Through the Wreckage

If you were to just read the blurb about "London River" you might be lead to think that this is purely a drama about two very different people looking for their children following the horror of the terrorist attacks in London 2005. And to be honest that is what I would call the vehicle of "London River" but what this movie seems to really be out is fear, prejudice and how a dramatic event can be a leveller amongst people. As such whilst we see the characters of Elisabeth and Ousmane search for their children in the confusion following the terrorist attacks what we are really watching is how they react to each other when it is discovered their children were together.

Considering the impact that the terrorist attack in London 2005 had I have to commend director Rachid Bouchareb for not trying to recreate this. Instead we observe it as many did, through the press coverage of the events, it has to be said restrained press coverage because what happened is not the story. And at the same time we have the interesting parallel of Elizabeth in Guernsey tending her vegetable whilst Ousmane is elsewhere working as a forester, 2 very different people but both working the land.

Sotigui Kouyaté as Ousmane in London River (2009)

Now the focus of "London River" is on Elizabeth as she arrives in London having failed to make contact with her daughter Jane and is shocked by what she discovers. The fact that her daughter lived above a Muslim shop stuns Elizabeth as does the predominant Muslim community she encounters which contrasts with what she is use to on Guernsey. Then there are the African artefacts she finds in Jane's flat leading to more confusion as she tries to understand the life of her daughter who as we become aware did not have as close a relationship as she thought.

This all leads to the realisation that she is in the same boat as many, as she sees the countless missing posters being put up whilst the Police are unable to help due to being inundated in the wake of the terrorist attacks. But it is when events lead to Elizabeth meeting Ousmane that it becomes interesting as Ousmane discovers his son Ali and Elizabeth's daughter Jane were living together. It leads to fear, Elizabeth fears the tall Ousmane, fearing his son had converted her daughter against her will whilst Ousmane who had not seen his son since he was 6 also fears that maybe his son had converted her. It leads Elizabeth's fear revealing her prejudice as she calls the police startled by Ousmane and this discovery.

Unfortunately whilst this is all good it does become a little expected as we watch the realisation that they are both in the same situation being a great leveller. And so this strange friendship forms as they realise behind the looks and the cultural differences they are very similar. Now it is good and the way their search unfolds is just as good but after such a clever build up which examines how fear can bring out the worst in us it feels a little cliche.

One thing you can't say is cliche is the performances and it is fascinating to watch Brenda Blethyn and Sotigui Kouyaté. Blethyn delivers the full range of feelings there is the initial confusion as she sees how differently her daughter lived, the fear that something may have happened to her, the prejudice and also the empathy. It is stunning to watch but then so is Sotigui Kouyaté this tall gaunt figure who quietly and solemnly goes about his search, almost emotionless be it when he is asking those if anyone saw his son or when Elizabeth jumps to the wrong conclusions about him.

What this all boils down to is that "London River" becomes a touching but also dark storyline using the aftermath of the London terrorist attack to look at how it affected those who were dealing with the not knowing over loved ones.