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London River

  • Film
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Sotigui Kouyat and Brenda Blethyn in London River
Sotigui Kouyat and Brenda Blethyn in London River

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars
Elisabeth (Brenda Blethyn) is a nervy, bilingual widow and smallholder living on Guernsey, and Ousmane (Sotigui Kouyaté), an ageing, solitary French-domiciled Muslim African and forester. Two people worlds and cultures apart, brought together in London in the immediate, tense aftermath of the July 7 2005 bomb attacks. As a frenetic Elisabeth criss-crosses the hospitals and police stations of Islington searching for her student daughter, her path constantly crosses  that of Ousmane who is on a similar quest to find his long-estranged son. It soon transpires that their respective offspring were a couple: are they dead or alive, possible victims or even, unthinkably, perpetrators?

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.
Written by Wally Hammond

Release Details

  • Rated:12A
  • Release date:Friday 9 July 2010
  • Duration:87 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Rachid Bouchareb
  • Screenwriter:Rachid Bouchareb, Olivier Lorelle, Zoé Galeron
  • Cast:
    • Brenda Blethyn
    • Roschdy Zem
    • Sotigui Kouyate
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