There’s awkwardness and truth in equal measure in the first British-based film from French-Algerian Rachid Bouchareb, director of ‘Days of Glory’. The film is as interested in the effects of catastrophic events on people’s behaviour and the possible fallout it might cause for multicultural relations as it is in the specific events of the 7/7 tragedy.
There’s a sense of representative caricature in the characters of ‘London River’, made more obvious by the primary contrasts and plot contrivances Bouchareb favours. That is mitigated, however, by the calm overall tone he adopts, the objectivity of his long-shot location work and the expanding emotional space he allows his two main protagonists. Elisabeth’s trajectory from ignorance to knowledge; from her (our?) initial xenophobia – ‘This place is absolutely crawling with Muslims!’ – to greater understanding through the processes of intimate contact takes an age to lift off. But in the film’s latter stages, Blethyn’s heart-on-the-sleeve acting style finally combines with the marvellous Kouyaté’s watchful intelligence and frail dignity to moving effect.