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Customer Review

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing but inspired account of the London bombings, 10 Sept. 2010
This review is from: London River [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
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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Initial post: 5 Nov 2010 09:30:37 GMT
Last edited by the author on 5 Nov 2010 09:33:40 GMT
Esme Ellis says:
I think this review has captured the film perfectly. Great acting which takes us through the journey the two people from far distant cultures make towards meeting the common humanity in each other. I was initially irritated by Elizabeth's (Brenda Blethin's) stubborn closed mindeness which seemed to go on too long for comfort. But that was probbably close to the truth of many people. I also found the outcome rather too bleak, and maybe not real enough, but the quality of her acting throughout combined with that of Ousmane's, transcended any faults of the script. A joy to have seen the great Sotigui Kouyate before he sadly died.
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