Making the Grades
This movie is opening in limited theatres in 2010 / 2011.
It’s hard to believe anything good could come from the 2005 London Tube bombing. The terrorist attack claimed 52 lives and sent chilling images of death across the entire country and beyond. Sifting through the aftermath, police and emergency personnel tried valiantly to rescue the badly injured passengers and identify the mangled bodies of those who were not so lucky.
Meanwhile worried relatives and friends posted pictures of missing individuals on the walls of shops and walkways. Hoping against all hope at times, they trudged from hospital to hospital searching the patient lists for names of their loved ones and filed in and out of morgues.
London River tells the story of two of those searchers. Given to middle-aged spread, Elizabeth (Brenda Blethyn) is a Guernsey farmwoman struggling to stay on top of her responsibilities since her husband was killed in the Falkland Islands War. When she sees the televised scenes of the London devastation, she calls her grown daughter Jane, who is attending school in London, to no avail. After numerous attempts, Elizabeth leaves the care of her animals in the hands of her brother Edward (Marc Baylis) and heads for the city only to find no one home at Jane’s flat.
Alone in the big city, the distraught mother joins throngs of other worried people hunting for any leads. Among those individuals, she meets a lanky, aging African man searching for his son Ali. Whether because of his skin color, nationality or religion, Elizabeth is leery of Ousmane (Sotigui Kouyaté) and curt during their initial interactions. (At one point she even reports him to the police, suspecting him of having a sinister part in her daughter’s disappearance.) As her hysteria heightens, he remains remarkably composed despite his own worry.
However as the grieving parents retrace the paths of their missing children, they run into one another again and again until they learn the two young adults were friends. At first the discovery adds fuel to Elizabeth’s suspicions. Yet over time, as the expectation of a happy reunion diminishes, she finds herself drawn for solace to the quiet, doleful-eyed man with the long graying dreadlocks.
While the terrorist attacks serve as a backdrop for this script, the real human drama takes place between those left to deal with the aftereffects. Elizabeth is forced to confront her prejudices and Ousmane must make peace with the decisions he made many years ago. While neither can change the tragic events, at least they discover they don’t have to be victims as well.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about London River.
Despite their outward appearances and life experiences, what things do Elizabeth and Ousmane have in common? How do they discover these shared aspects? How can tragedy either bring people together or force them apart?
Why do you think Jane was hesitant to tell her mother about her life in London? How can a parent’s expectations influence the decisions of a grown child?
How do the characters in this story deal with grief, both initially and in the long term?