London River (Rachid Bouchareb, 2009): UK | France | Algeria

Reviewed by Candice Field. Viewed at the AFI Film Festival 2009.

London River, written and directed by Rachid Bouchareb is truly one of the most emotional, and heart wrenching films released this year. The film follows two parents as they travel to London in search of their missing children, in the wake of the 2005 terrorist attacks on the city. Initially, both characters seem weary of one another (the mother in particular) and there seems to be a kind of racial divide between the two. However, after they discover that their two children were living with one another at the time of the attacks they decide to let their respective guards down and form an unlikely bond. The scenery throughout the film is rather elaborate, and, at times, quite breathtaking. The film opens with a rather long shot of Elisabeth (mother of one of the missing young children; the girl) climbing up a high cliff to her favorite resting spot over the sea. At the end of the film, when she returns to the very same spot, we discover that this is her place of solitude. At various parts throughout the film there are sequences that involve little, if any dialogue at all. In a way, Bouchareb does this to allow us to become more intimeat (familiar) with the characters in their daily routines.

Veteran actress Brenda Blethyn delivers an electrifying performance as a lonely widower in search of her child. Blethyn portrays the uptight, shrew, and at times ignorant part of the character in a very realistic and believable way. Actor Sotigui Kouyate delivers an equally riveting performance, as a father in search of a son he barely knew. Bouchareb purposefully created both characters in a manner that would allow them to balance one another out. The pace and rhythm of the film accelerates as the main characters (the two parents) get closer to discovering the fate of their beloved children. Rachid Bouchareb makes sure to familiarize the audience with the two missing young people, through photographs. Blethyn’s character delivers a series of different phone calls to her daughter after the terrorist attacks, which allows us a better understanding of how much her daughter really meant to her. London River is truly a remarkable film, that will likely influence the style and composition of countless filmmakers in the future.

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