DRAMA; 1hr 50min (French with subtitles)
STARRING: Vincent Lindon, Audrey Dana, Firat Ayverdi
Channel vision: from left, Lindon and Ayverdi
Desperation breeds strange bedfellows and extreme measures in director Philippe Lioret’s Welcome, an in-close portrayal of refugees who are anything but. Bilal (Ayverdi) is a 17-year-old Kurdish boy, stuck, as are hundreds like him, in the French coastal port of Calais after being refused entry to Britain. Simon (Lindon) is a swimming instructor and failed champion who Bilal pays for lessons in a cockamamie bid to swim the English Channel.
Simon is taciturn, unhappy and reluctantly in the midst of a divorce. Despite it being forbidden to assist illegal immigrants, he helps Bilal initially to impress his openhearted ex-wife (Dana). But he’s won over by the courteous teen, who has walked 4,000 kilometres to get to where he is and goes at his swimming with the solemn dedication of a choirboy (or maybe not — there’s a girl waiting for him in London). The rainy austerity of Lioret’s Calais is mirrored by Lindon and Ayverdi’s underplayed approach: as Simon and Bilal, they have the damped-down quality of those who know for sure that a lucky break is as elusive as freedom.