THE FLOOD, directed by Anthony Woodley and written by Helen Kingston, is a well-intentioned yet contrived take on the refugee crisis in Europe. For a film about the messy obstacles of migration for a refugee, it was sanded smooth leaving behind no rough edges to hold onto. Though I think there are many who disagree, I, unfortunately, think that that only left us with the bare bones of an uninspiring and forgettable piece of cinema.
Wendy (Lena Headey) is an immigration officer who is inured to the endless immigration cases that come to her desk in the UK. Then Haile (Ivanno Jeremiah) shows up, recently arrested after a violent attack. Haile is a refugee from Eritrea and he is seeking asylum in the UK but it is Wendy’s job to assess if he is a terrorist or not before letting him in. Wendy is prepared to approach Haile’s case the same as any other, but her boss, Philip (Iain Glen), says that they are under pressure to get Haile out. But Wendy has other things on her mind, as she is battling custody issues with her ex and alcohol issues of her own. As Wendy presses the issue of his violent outbreak, Haile relates to her his journey to get to her office in rapid flashbacks starting from his time as a scrupled Eritrean soldier, a passenger on a flooded raft, a refugee in the Calais Jungle, to a leader packed in the back of a lorry. As we jump back from memory to office, the movie is neatly tied together with Haile’s explanation for his attack coming to light at the end.
The issue of the refugee crisis is an ongoing problem, and as the movie states in the beginning, 70 million individuals, or about the population of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland combined, have been forcibly displaced. Over 18,000 of these individuals have died just trying to go to Europe in the past 5 years alone. The need for a moving and pressing film to bring light to this crisis is apparent but I don’t think THE FLOOD fits the bill. The intrigue is placed only in the flashbacks, which is very important, of course, but at the end of the day, the final and arguably most crucial obstacle is that immigration office. Though Headey and Jeremiah do a fine job acting the role, the stakes at the immigration office seem dulled down compared to the vigor and desperation in the flashbacks. This could be argued as exactly the point but the fact that they needed to add Wendy’s hardened backstory to the plot to give her more of an edge seemed like a trying attempt to fluff up the characters stretched thin.
I rarely have this opinion – but this movie could have added thirty more minutes. The flashbacks to the fellow refugees in the Calais Jungle gave us the more compelling part of the movie but the relationships between Haile and the others could have dug deeper to make us feel more connected to them. The tragedy of the flooding raft seemed fleeting and though they did a metaphorical call back at the end of the movie, I almost completely forgot to connect to either a literal or figurative flood.
Once again, THE FLOOD is well-intentioned and there should be more movies with a similar drive, but it needs to strike a certain chord, which unfortunately this does not. I was excited to see Game of Thrones alumni working together in a completely different light, but I quickly forgot they ever moved me in their battle for the throne while they sift through papers under the blue monochrome of stereotypical British cinema. Therefore, I can’t give this movie a heartfelt cinematic recommendation (though people should watch it for at least some education on this crisis) as there are bound to be others stepping up to the plate sooner or later that take more time to dive deeper and really deliver. THE FLOOD will be released on May 1st, 2020.