It’s the eyes that get you in Ivanno Jeremiah’s performance as an Eritrean refugee, Haile. They are haunted by the trials he’s endured escaping his homeland, before finding himself in a grey cell in a UK detention centre. Enter Lena Headey’s bureaucrat Wendy, who’s keen to hit her targets.
The plot cuts back and forth between the clinical interrogation and the hardships of Haile’s journey. Despite everything Haile has endured, he still shows Wendy compassion. She’s more interested in trying to win back custody of her daughter while swigging white-label vodka from a water bottle.
Helen Kingston’s script is based on accounts collected by director Anthony Woodley during his time volunteering in the Calais Jungle. No doubt that experience led to the film’s sense of authenticity, right down to its gallows jokes. ‘Do you know what they call those who get across first time?’ Haile asks. ‘Bastards.’ He’s lost everything except his sense of humour.
‘The Flood’ is an understated, lean film, shorn of flashy camerawork or narrative pyrotechnics. Nothing is over-polished or glossed-up. Instead, there’s a searing emotional reality in evidence, not just from Haile, but from Mandip Gill (‘Doctor Who’) as a fellow refugee, Reema. As we come back to those haunted eyes, we’re given a sharp reminder that the refugee crisis is far from over. Thousands of Hailes lose their lives fleeing persecution every day.