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3.9 out of 5 stars23
3.9 out of 5 stars
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London River is a quietly powerful and thought-provoking drama surrounding the aftermath of the London 7-7-2005 bombings.

Brenda Blethyn, ever-watchable, is entirely believable as the distraught mother who cannot trace her daughter, when she sees news footage of the devastation, from her Guernsey home. On the other side of the coin is elderly, black and dread-locked Sotigui Kouyate, trying to contact his son, whom he walked out on when the boy was six, then having been working in France since.

Both end up searching in London, Blethyn doing the rounds of missing person posters and showing photos to everybody she can, in the hope of any piece of news. The paths of these two unlikely kindred spirits cross when it transpires that their two children may have been living together and taking Arabic classes, through their local mosque.

As you can imagine, there's quite a lot of cross-cultural clashes here, not just the black boy, white girl aspect, but also the Muslim element and the thorny issue, particularly at the time when the film is set; terrorism. Could they have been involved, too? The mother knows her daughter and knows she couldn't have been, but the same could not be said about the father...more food for thought.

There's good solid acting from both - Blethyn typically more blubbery and emotional whilst Kouyate, as the sort of wise old sage, takes things more pragmatically and thoughtfully. It's a strange mix if you were to walk in on the film half-way through; follow it from the start and it seems quite natural.

There's been comment that it's contrived in that Blethyn is suddenly able to speak the native French of Kouyate - I don't find that hard to believe at all, not only is she citizen of Guernsey, where French is their official other language but is also physically much closer to France than the U.K. Also, in the day that a woman of her age was educated, she (& myself) learnt a type of 'schoolboy' French - I could understand much of what was being said from my failed 'O' Level, back 30 years ago.

So, a good drama, for what it is. It certainly won't appeal to all, both in subject matter, nor in its slow-ish, measured pace. But for those who enjoy something a bit different, something that shines a new light, perhaps, on a recent piece of our history, plus the acting, then London River has a lot going for it. I viewed it on BBC1.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 September 2010
The subject of the London terrorist bombings of 7 July 2005 is one that you would expect to be handled with tact, insight and delicacy, presumably by a director of the likes of Stephen Frears from a script by Hanif Kureishi. What you probably don't expect is a film by a French director whose last movie was a WWII epic from the perspective of French-African Muslim soldiers (Days Of Glory), a director who decides to examine the event in the aftermath, neatly viewing it from the perspective of a Christian mother and a Muslim father. Elisabeth and Ousmané have come separately to the city to look for their children who have gone missing on the day of the bombings, both of them are initially mistrustful of each other, but eventually they realise that they are not so different and it's in their mutual interests to help each other.

That all sounds a little contrived and not a little bleak and depressing, but in reality, it turns out that Rachid Bouchareb's choices and methods are highly effective. Filmed in 2008, while the memory of the bombing was still fresh in the minds of Londoners, Bouchareb worked from nothing more than an outline of a script, soaking in the atmosphere of inner city London and allowing the process of trying to find missing children take its own course rather than come with a predetermined idea of what it ought to be like. Bouchareb would even allow a number of key scenes to be improvised by the actors, convincingly capturing the awkwardness and confusion of two people who don't know each other, who would seem to have little in common, and who are a little mistrustful of each other and of what the other person is going to say or do. But it also takes great actors to make this work and be able to put themselves in the position of parents of missing children, and Brenda Blethyn and Sotigui Kouyaté are both outstanding.

Going through the formalities of looking for a missing person, visiting hospitals, morgues and police stations, the film can initially seem a little plodding, with a grim outcome almost inevitable, but the director makes some good observations and the very fine actors manage to keep the viewer fully engaged in the nature of their predicament, the film reminding us through replayed TV footage of the horror of the day of the bombings. Rather than being heavy-handed then, London River's points about tolerance are well made, the sense (and senselessness) of human loss becoming the overriding theme of the film that gives it a deeper, more intimate and longer-term meaning that any attempt to understand the actions of one terrible day.
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VINE VOICEon 9 April 2012
"London River" offers a sombre and penetrating analysis of humanity, hope, loss and despair, with perhaps, a possibility of reconciliation and redemption through a sharing of common experience. In the immediate aftermath of the London bombings two parents, one a white woman, the other a black father, seek their children, desperate to discover whether or not they are victims of that senseless outrage.

The Franco-Algerian director, Rachid Bouchareb, employs a distinguished cast of players, many of whom he has previously worked with in his movies in France, most notably, in "Days of Glory". The result is a serious and entirely convincing examination of how our shared humanity can be wilfully or mistakenly masked by superficial or thoughtless prejudice.

Four rather than five stars because the pace is somewhat slow and the final scenes add little to what is otherwise a drama of great power.
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on 25 November 2010
I have loved all the film Brenda Blethyn has acted in. And she did not let me down now. She acted beautifully with Sotigiu Kouyate.It was not glamorous stars made loook "ordenary". They were real people.The film was only rated to 4 in the Norwegian papers and did not go very long in the movies. So then I had to buy it, and don't regret it, because this is not a movie you only see once
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on 6 May 2012
I have watched that film in tv, then I decided to buy it. This is about understanding the relationships between people professing different religions. Very good, interesting, deep movie.
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on 11 April 2014
Brenda blethyn is brilliant. Love her and her films. Touching story of a parents battle to search for the truth.
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on 31 May 2014
This film, originally seen on BBC2, forced me to abandon my early night as it was truly unmissable. I have watched it several times since my DVD arrived, and each time I find new aspects of both storyline and nuances of the two main protagonists.
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on 7 August 2015
this is a beautiful , unusual film - that I saw when it first came out. I bought this dvd for a friend who hasn't seen it.
Brenda Blethyn is brilliant in it - and I love the fact it is in French and English, and that she speaks French in some parts of it.
it is obviously a contemporary theme but remains a slow paced, gentle and moving film. I can't see how anyone would not like it.
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on 29 June 2014
Well this was an unusual portrayal of a story & Brenda Blethyn played her role true to life. Good story line sad end but I really enjoyed it.

Best Regards
A.Parker
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on 2 June 2014
Good storyline based on fact, though the ending let it down. Still a good film Brenda played a good leading lady.
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