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Bilal (Firat Ayverdi), a 17 year old Kurdish refugee from Iraq, has arrived in Calais - like
thousands of others - after three months of clandestine travel, desperate to be reunited with his girlfriend Mina (Derya Ayverdi), now living with her family in London. Simon (Vincent Lindon) is a swimming instructor in Calais, just about to finalise his divorce from Marion (Audrey Dana), one of the volunteers helping to feed the refugees around the port. On an impulse and against the law, Simon offers Bilal and his friend Zoran (Selim Akgul) a bed for a night or two and is soon helping Bilal to improve his swimming - as Bilal plans to reach England whatever it takes. Complications change everyone's life.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Although far removed from it geographically, Australians may well recognise some of the moral and ethical complications of the themes explored here. They may also be aware of the well publicised refugee situation around Calais, where thousands of mostly young men from mostly the Middle East are creating a large, desperate camp as they seek ways to get to England for a better life, reunite with families, and escape their misery. With legal means closed, they resort to illegal ones. This story springs from amidst that human chaos, exploring the universal moral and emotional challenges, through the specifics of young Kurdish Bilal (Firat Ayverdi) and a typical Frenchman, Simon (Vincent Lindon).

The script is sensitive and sharp, dealing in the intractable grey of the moral dilemmas that arise through the globally replicated issue of displaced people and their treatment by host countries, Western societies which are being tested by the crisis. But it's on the individual human level that Philippe Lioret's film takes us through some of the recognisable and tangible issues. Each of these refugees is a human being with family, with dreams and aspirations and with a whole life at stake.

Firat Ayverdi and Vincent Lindon give superb performances that distil their respective characters and draw us into the story, as do Audrey Dana as Simon's ex, Marion, and Derya Ayverdi as Mina, who waits in London for the boy she met three years earlier. We learn how the authorities are cracking down on the refugees and anyone helping them - to discourage the fleeing masses from collecting at the port. Simon's impulse to help is triggered by the actions of Marion, and it's a terrific piece of writing to have him embark on this course on a whim, only to find himself propelled by newfound care for his fellow humans.

There are other elements that enrich the story - and the relationship that evolves after their divorce between Simon and Marion is full of complex and accurate observation, while Bilal's determination to get to London for Mina carries within it the tragedy that comes to haunt all their lives - and ours. It's a superbly made piece of cinema, with much to offer the film lover, but escape isn't one of them.


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