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Neither challenges our collective assumptions nor presents new insight
on 29 July 2008
This is the second film I've seen recently tackling the hot topics of immigration and exploitation, the other being Lorna's Silence. It's a Free World is a familiar story of economic migrants from Eastern Europe and beyond travelling to the UK looking for peace and prosperity, or just to raise a family in a safe environment. However when they arrive they find themselves at the bottom of the social ladder, living in cramped and often unhygienic accommodation devoid of work or dignity.
The migrant characters were lightly drawn and only one had even a little colour sketched in - almost enough for us to care for him as a person, but not quite. The acting was average and the cinematography uninspiring.
The story of a single mother struggling to earn a living and raise her young son, she works for a London workforce company on whose behalf she travels to Poland to recruit teachers, nurses and engineers to become window cleaners and labourers. When she gets laid off she takes it personally and convinces her flatmate to start an agency with her. They make a go of it, building up a clientele of factories and building sites that will hire casual staff by the hour or day. Their ethical code is ignored at every turn as they exploit work hungry migrants who have to arrive each morning in the yard of a local pub to find out if they have a job that day. This theme was for me the most interesting element, as the girls, who themselves as young British women were struggling to find rewarding and stable careers, chipped away at their own ethics and justified their uncaring attitude towards the migrants by an `every woman for herself' attitude. A thought provoking social observation not unrelated to the themes within Lord of the Flies. This is not quite a descent into barbarism but shows the human instinct for self preservation has not been suppressed within modern civilisation.
I felt that the contemporary nature and honest treatment of the subject went a long way to justifying the Festival invitations and the awards but I'm not convinced that it stands up as a great piece of cinematography. It neither challenges our collective assumptions on this subject, nor presents any new insight.