The Flood


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

The Flood
"This is often made of smaller moments, questions, answers, the unasked, the unsaid." | Photo: Joel Frakes

The Flood is uncomfortable watching, and rightly so. Opening with statistics, an inciting event, it very quickly sketches out the borders of a confrontation. Lena Headey is Wendy, Immigration Officer, coat cut as generically as the architecture of authority that surrounds her. Water bottle, packed boxes, tightly wound. Ivanno Jeremiah is Haile, shoes held together with tape, cuffed for the second time we've seen him. Unarmed.

The temptation to describe this as stagy is a consequence of the frequency with which it becomes a two-and-a-half-hander, small frame, built of looks and intercessions, interrogations and interpreters, interlocutors on behalf of the Home Secretary. Questions are being asked, statements are being made, some of them on front pages. Yet while an enterprising director might have found ways to present this under the proscenium arch, aerial unit and sophomore feature veteran Anthony Woodley has more tools at his disposal.

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There are hints of budgetary constraints - a bit of colour grading and remedial CG and set dressing can make night from day, Eritrean stone out of any convenient quarry, but it's really Calais. The Flood is ever metaphorical but that doesn't mean it isn't at times palpable. "The people who help you cross borders are dangerous," and this is absolutely true.

Mornings, days, restraint, humour and the life vest coast, a moment at Harbour, a Terminal Communication, and counting, counting, counting. Euros, lives, dawns, noise in the back of a curtain-sided truck (more staging). "Let me help you out", someone says, early, but there's a balance, a dynamic. Lines are being crossed.

That there's drama enough for stunt credits, not just flood but flame, doesn't change that this is often made of smaller moments, questions, answers, the unasked, the unsaid. There's an interesting discussion about where the UK starts, in the context of international law and ports of entry there are overlapping technical definitions, but moral ones beyond the legal ones.

There are a lot of smaller parts - levels and places of authority, drivers, guards, applicants, refugees, bureaucrats, warders, each a turn of the screw winding towards one form of arrival or another. All, ultimately, supporting two - Headey, who executive produces; Jeremiah, one to watch on a career track that's moved from stage to repeated stints on small screen.

The score is by Billy Jupp, reunited with many behind the screen with many involved in 2015's The Carrier, which, perhaps presciently, featured a novel pandemic spread by air travel. Cinematography is by Jon Muschamp, perhaps best known for his work on celebrity bear animation Poles Apart. Here the cover is pretty crisp, but it's a bit disappointing that it ends in bokeh (those focus blur dots that were once a novelty and now have an associated Samsung app).

This is difficult to watch, but not because it isn't good. While a handful of the cast members beyond Heady have been in Game Of Thrones (and Ivanno Jeremiah is attached to one of the myriad prequels) it avoids a lot of its traps. There is implication instead of exposition, and in a twisty narrative The Flood even manages a satisfying ending to its arc.

Reviewed on: 03 May 2020
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The Flood packshot
A hardened immigration officer decides the fate of a potentially dangerous asylum seeker.
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Director: Anthony Woodley

Writer: Helen Kingston

Starring: Lena Headey, Amira Ghazalla, Jack Gordon, Scott Hinds, Ivanno Jeremiah, Iain Glen

Year: 2019

Runtime: 99 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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