'London River'

Empty

Set in the tragic aftermath of the terrorist bombings in 2005, "London River" is the compelling drama of two parents in search of their missing children. Director Rachid Bouchareb ("Days of Glory") brings great sensitivity to the fictionalized tale, which goes beyond the obvious in its description of England's multiracial society scarred by deep-seated prejudice but capable of change.

A major asset is the casting of Brenda Blethyn in the central role of a farm woman who can't locate her young daughter after the bombings; she is paired opposite veteran African actor Sotigui Kouyate as the forlorn Muslim father of a missing boy. Both arrive in London on the same desperate mission. When they discover that their kids were living together and taking classes in Arabic, their worlds begin a dizzying overlap.

The traditionally imagined script is fluid but contains few surprises. Bouchareb and fellow scripters Olivier Lorelle and Zoe Galeron underplay the morbid fascination of disaster movies, opting to keep TV news reports of the bombings and morgue visits to a respectful minimum. The focus is steadily on the widowed Elisabeth Sommers (Blethyn) as she stumbles onto the life of a daughter she didn't know well.

Blethyn's performance is subtly effective, avoiding schmaltz without denying anguish and pain. Kouyate brings dignity and sensitivity to the role of the father, who must deal with the additional, horrifying suspicion that his son could be a terrorist. (partialdiff)
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