Release date: July 9th, 2010
Running time: 83 minutes
Director: Rachid Bouchareb
Writers: Rachid Bouchareb, Zoe Galeron, Olivier Lorelle
Cast: Brenda Blethyn, Sotigui Kouyate
My Piccadilly Line train arrived at Holborn Station around 8:40am, allowing me just enough time to rush in to work. I would’ve been later but we missed a couple of stops on the way. It didn’t strike me as odd, not until much later that day.
As I settled in at my desk, ready to start reading emails and taking calls, the television screens behind me began reporting the news; first of a power outage on the London underground network, and then of bombs going off. It was 8:55am, July 7th, 2005.
I remember the moment I came out of my office and looked down the road at where one of the trains and the number 30 bus blew up. Sirens blared, police cars, vans and ambulances sped past. People ran, phones in hand, nothing worked as the networks went down as well. I’d just gone past there and it was really the first time in my life I and said to myself “I was lucky” – 52 people died and 700 were left injured.
Rachid Bouchareb, a French film director of Algerian descent, uses the aftermath of the bombings that morning to tell the story of widow and mother, Elisabeth (Brenda Blethyn), who lives in Guernsey and fears that her daughter in London is among the missing or dead, having not heard from her. Frantic with worry, Elisabeth goes in search of her and that’s when she meets Ousmane (Sotigui Kouyate), a French-African Muslim who’s looking for his son.
Rather than focusing on the bombings, the culprits or using London River to ask some key questions surrounding events that day, Bouchareb stays with Elisabeth and lets us explore what it’s like to be a family member searching for a loved one under these circumstances.
In doing so, we come to learn more about a woman who hasn’t experienced much of what it’s like to live in multi-cultural Britain, and in some ways we see her reluctance and slight tendency towards xenophobia as she encounters people of all walks of life who have been affected by this act of mass murder.
In choosing to highlight the mistrust between nationalities and faiths, it feels as if Bouchareb sidetracks some of the other issues surrounding the 7/7 bombings. While his goal might not have been to do this, it certainly feels that way because watching the film brings them to mind and made me ask those questions.
There are moments of real insight and drama, and Bouchareb uses these scenes to show a parent’s anguish as well as how easy it is to racially profile people in our everyday dealings, but it doesn’t take it far enough to make a point or take a stand. London River shows rather than explores.
The complex nature of the events that took place on July 7th makes for a tapestry of stories to be told in the tragedy left in its wake, but what comes across here is very difficult to relate to as the main characters are outsiders looking in but not really grasping the bigger picture.
As someone who was lucky enough to not have been running late that morning and who saw some of the devastation caused by these callous acts, London River, like the Report of the Official Account of the Bombings in London published by the Home Office in May 2006, takes every opportunity to substitute real hard facts and questions for speculation, stereotyping and misplaced melodrama.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .