The Flood

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

Anthony Woodley

Starring

Arsher Ali Iain Glen Lena Headey

Anticipation.

Love Lena Headey – and the topic of asylum seems timely.

Enjoyment.

Strange that a film about something so real and vivid could feel so false.

In Retrospect.

Falls to pieces under mild scrutiny.

The worthy cause of asylum in Europe is the subject of this hand-wringing political drama.

Imagine you’re playing a game of poker and all of your opponents just flip over their cards and allow you to cruise to victory, round after round. It may be a great way to earn bundles of quick cash, but this is no longer a game and, by extension, no longer any fun. Anthony Woodley’s The Flood is the cinematic equivalent of that set up (albeit with no currency changing hands), in that it reveals its cards within the first five minutes, and so the remaining 95 involve having all your basic suspicions laboriously confirmed.

Ivanno Jeremiah plays Haile, a lone refugee with a twinkle in his eye hailing from an unnamed African state. He goes AWOL from the military after it’s discovered he failed to execute a filthy rebel when marching him off to the desert. The film opens on a scene of British traffic cops inspecting a suspicious lorry from which Haile pounces wielding a bowie knife for protection. When the Home Office and tabloids catch wind that an illegal immigrant with murderous hate in his eyes has landed on these shores, everyone sees his immediate expulsion as a fait accompli.

Not Wendy (Lena Headey), a steely-eyed immigration officer with a catastrophic private life, who decides to look deeper into the heart of the noble and charismatic Haile. Surely someone this friendly and articulate would be able to explain his sticky predicament? Though flashbacks, the film depicts Haile’s perilous journey across Europe, with special attention given to his time spent languishing in the squalor of the Calais Jungle.

Director Woodley, alongside writer Helen Kingston and producer Luke Healy, were compelled to make this film after volunteering at the Calais Jungle. It’s strange, then, that not a frame of it rings true as a depiction of real people and lived experience. The script bulges with dramatically convenient episodes that feel like they’ve been snatched from a genre film, all of which further help to deify Haile as well as undercut any perception we might have that he is en route to the UK to tear the place up.

Meanwhile Wendy predictably allows her emotions to get the better of her, and she’s even engaging in off-the-record asides with her subject in an attempt make sure she’s not sending genuine asylum seeker to his doom. How or why this angel of death suddenly discovers a sense of compassion remains unclear.

The principle cast do what they can with the weak material, but as we draw closer to Haile’s deadline, the coincidences mount up and the makers scrabble towards an unedifying finale. The Flood may contain first-hand details or observations about the plight of the politically displaced, but it has no interest in delivering a commentary on the complex moral questions that nations currently face with regard to asylum and the co-mingling of disparate populations.

Even less forgivable is its one dimensional characterisations which offer a crassly sentimentalised case study of a refugee whose innate goodness allies him with Jesus Christ. The makers are so intent on removing the hateful stigma attached to asylum seekers that’s cultivated by the political right, that they shift things too far to the other side of the dial, and you’re left with no sense that the film is dealing with real people. If you’re at all interested in this urgent subject matter, do yourself a favour and seek out the Dardenne brothers’ vastly superior 1996 film La Promesse instead.

Published 18 Jun 2019

Tags: Anthony Woodley Arsher Ali Iain Glen Lena Headey

Anticipation.

Love Lena Headey – and the topic of asylum seems timely.

Enjoyment.

Strange that a film about something so real and vivid could feel so false.

In Retrospect.

Falls to pieces under mild scrutiny.

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