Writer and director Philippe Lioret’s film expounds on the difficulties of immigrants and casual racism in modern day Calais. Seventeen-year-old Bilal (Firat Ayverdi) is looking to make it to London. He has already walked thousands of miles to reach the French port from Iraq. Now, after a failed attempt to go by lorry, he hopes to swim the channel. Vincent Lindon plays former Olympic swimmer turned reluctant swimming coach Simon, and the two bond as Simon looks for distraction as his wife files divorce proceedings and Bilal dreams of making it across the channel to see his loved one and pursue a football career.
While in the initial stages of the training, Simon is a neutral figure who refuses to get involved while his soon to be ex-wife runs a soup kitchen for the refugees, over the course of the film he gets a full character arc as he distances himself from the prejudices that seem the local norm, whether cop or security guard, neighbour of coast guard. The big chinned, craggy faced Lindon is as solid a presence as ever, and it is the intensity and detail he brings to his growing friendship with Bilal that really makes the film work. Undeniably schematic, Loiret’s engrossing and warm drama manages to transcend its conservative but competent execution. Well worth checking out.
GFT, Glasgow and Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 6 Nov.