The Flood (3 stars)

The Flood

Low-key and well-informed refugee drama, starring Lena Headey

Director Anthony Woodley, writer Helen Kingston and producer Luke Healy were inspired to make The Flood after volunteering at the infamous refugee camp Calais Jungle, and their real-world experience – plus extensive amounts of research – informs this effectively low-key human drama. Based on the accounts of some of the estimated 70 million migrants currently displaced from their homes around the world, the film filters this international crisis through the story of one single man.

He is the disarmingly charming former soldier Haile (Ivanno Jeremiah), who has travelled 5,000 kilometres from Africa to Europe to escape punishment and persecution. Apprehended by British police with nothing but the clothes on his back, his fate lies in the hands of cool-headed immigration officer Wendy (Lena Headey). Dealing with her own personal demons, and under pressure to fill government deportation quotas, Wendy finds herself deeply affected by Haile's gruelling story – shown to us in flashback – and makes it her mission to help him.

As you'd expect from such a story, this faint glimmer of hope – and other fleeting moments of human contact and compassion – are rare shafts of light in a film whose dark themes are matched by claustrophobic visuals. Cinematographer Jon Muschamp captures the muddy, anonymous shanty-town hell of the Jungle – a plea of 'We want to live' daubed on the wall in garish red. Elsewhere, his camera hunkers down in the shadowy bowels of one of the trucks in which so many make their desperate bid for a new life – only to find that the oppressive grey interior of the immigration centre is just as airless and hopeless.

Performances are strong throughout, but the film's real impact comes in the way it plugs into the familiar – and often dangerous – rhetoric and imagery that we are all now confronted with on a daily basis. The film's title is reminiscent of the far right's warnings of a 'flood' of immigrants headed for our shores, while clothing washed up on a beach can't help but bring to mind the desperately shocking images of ill-fated Syrian three-year-old Alan Kurdi. The Flood is a powerful reminder that, underneath the headlines, millions of individual stories are waiting to be told, and millions of humans are simply fighting to survive.

Limited release from Fri 21 Jun.

The Flood

  • 3 stars
  • 2018
  • UK
  • Directed by: Anthony Woodley
  • Cast: Lena Headey, Ivanno Jeremiah, Iain Glen

After former soldier Haile (Jeremiah) makes it from Africa to an immigration centre in the UK, cool-headed immigration officer Wendy (Headey) decides to help him. Claustrophobic and low-key human drama with strong performances, showing the human cost of anti-immigration rhetoric. Powerful and timely.