Thursday 27 March 2014
Rachid Bouchareb | UK, 2009 | 88 mins | Cert. 12
Set in the aftermath of the July 2005 London bombings, London River is a quietly powerful and thought-provoking drama that follows two parents from very different backgrounds as they desperately search for their missing children.
Increasingly concerned that she can’t get in contact with her daughter, Elizabeth (Brenda Blethyn) leaves the rural surroundings of her Guernsey farm for the bustle of Finsbury Park to look for her. Once there she finds her path continually crossing with that of Ousmané (Sotigui Kouyaté), a Muslim originally from Mali, who has journeyed from France in search of the son he hasn’t seen in 15 years. Initially suspicious and wary of each other, they gradually forge a connection as they discover how their children’s lives had become intertwined.
Director Bouchareb vividly reminds us of the shock and horror of the bombings with news footage from the day, but this is merely a starting point. The focus of the film is on the encounter between two very different people who share the same sense of bewilderment, alienation and fear in the wake of their children’s disappearance in a multi-cultural urban environment that they struggle to understand. Putting aside their cultural differences, and focusing on the hope of finding their children alive, they give each other the strength to continue the search and to maintain their faith in humanity. It’s fascinating to see the two main characters interacting with the Blackstock Road setting that seems so familiar to us, but so strange to them.