After Four Lions, a comedy depicting the London bombing of 2005, comes London River, a taut drama that couldn’t be further away from Chris Morris if it tried. Where as Four Lions struggled to find the right tone at times, London River has no problems in that department.
Elisabeth (Blethyn) is a widower content to wile away her days tending to her small farm on Guernsey. When news of the London bombing reaches her, she calls her daughter to see if she’s okay. Days pass and there is still no word so Elisabeth travels to London to seek her out. As she does, Mr. Ousmane (Koyatй) traipses the London streets for his son whom he hasn’t seen since he left home when his son was only six. Over the course of a few days, Elisabeth and Ousmane turn gumshoe and find out more about their children than they wanted to know.
Just like he did in his previous outing, the decent WWII adventure Days Of Glory, Rachid Boucherab doesn’t sensationalise the events that unfold. Instead he follows the advice from the archive footage of an interview Elisabeth watches on TV: a police officer warns the interviewer that any speculation of the cause of the bombing is ‘unhelpful’. It’s a good decision, as the low-key nature of the film allows the touching climax its due punch.
Although the director would have more in common with the gangly Ousmane (a dignified turn from Koyatй, who sadly died recently), he lends more screen time to Blethyn, who channels her forever-just-a-moment-away-from tears performance in Secrets And Lies. Boucherab introduces her as a friendly middle-aged woman but her sojourn in London allows cracks to appear in that persona: she’s cagey around ‘foreigners’: as the butcher who owns the apartment where her daughter lives attempts to give her as much information as he can, she slowly backs away from him into a wall. When Elisabeth learns that her daughter was attending Arabic classes, she asks the teacher ‘why would anyone want to learn it?’ When she first meets Ousmane she won’t shake his хэнд and gets him arrested when she learns that his son knew her daughter.
It might all wrap up quite easily and its message of ethnic tolerance is obvious, but London River’s central performances remain its winПing factor.