As the inquest has just opened on the victims of the terrible 7/7 bombings here in London in 2005, it seems the right moment to have a look at the new film, London River, based on that awful day and its aftermath.
The film, which stars the supremely talented Brenda Blethyn and Sotigui Kouyate, is a tale about discovery. Brenda Blethyn is a single mother whose husband was killed in the Falklands, who has brought up her only daughter in Guernsey on a farm. It seems a tough, all-consuming, lonely life, and you can sense how much the mother misses her daughter, who has gone to live and study in London. When Brenda hears of the bombings on the news, she immediately rings her daughter. And rings. And rings. Then she decides to go to London to find her.
The London she comes to is not a London I know – it’s a strongly multicultural area, where the shop signs are printed in several languages and the bustle seems totally alien to the mother, used to her withdrawn life in Guernsey. It is all brilliantly shot by director Rachid Bouchareb, who also directed Days of Glory.
She starts a harrowing search for her daughter, finding out more about her than she has ever known, and wherever she goes, she sees Kouyate’s character – a tall, stately black Muslim man, who comes from Africa but has been living in France. The visual contrast between the two is extreme, and the contrast in all other ways seems insurmountable at first, as the mother rebels against the increasing knowledge that her daughter has a life she has never shared.
Gradually, their shared experiences bring them together and by the end of the film they have reached a new understanding of themselves, each other and their children.
I found this a powerfully moving and poignant film. Losing a child is every parent’s worst fear. This film shows that there is more than one way to risk that loss. No matter how much you love them, you can still reach a point where you don’t know them at all. At the end of the film, the mother seems closer to her daughter than she has been for a long time.