“I’ve always been unwanted” is the final line from The Flood‘s trailer, and one that will stick with you throughout the duration of the film. Those words are cold, brutally honest and downright upsetting, which is a sad reflection of the current refugee crisis.
Director Anthony Woodley is at the helm of this film, with it being his second feature-length project. The Flood follows Eritrean refugee Haile (Ivanno Jeremiah) as he comes face to face with hard-boiled Immigration Officer Wendy (Lena Headey).
The Flood features plenty of flashbacks, showing us Haile’s long and perilous journey to the UK. It’s appropriately gritty, refusing to sugarcoat anything as we see the physical and mental trauma he put himself through in order to arrive in the country. There are plenty of scenes that tug at the heartstrings and remind audiences about the reality of the situation.
A scene that will stick with me for a long time is the amount of clothing and lifejackets that have littered the shore. We’re unclear about what this means, but either way it’s not a pleasant situation. Whether they’re clothes of the deceased, or clothes of those who are in need of refuge, it’s still a sad state of affairs.
Wendy’s character is equally as important as Haile’s and is played brilliantly by Lena Headey. She has her own struggles, turning to alcohol in order to numb her own emotional pain. She’s confronted with a difficult decision: does Haile deserve asylum, or should he be turned away? What is morally correct in this situation?
Wendy and Haile are dealing with deeply personal struggles. The line of “being unwanted” strikes a chord with Wendy too, who despite having a roof over her head and a job, is miserable as sin due to her family life collapsing before her eyes. Haile admits his mother ‘gave him away’, and this forms a key similarity between the two characters. It’s a powerful moment.
“Do you think I’m a terrorist?” Asks Haile as he holds up his cuffed hands, to which Wendy coldly replies “That’s standard procedure”. This exchange alone speaks volumes, as refugees are treated like hardened criminals as soon as they arrive, making it easy to critique the way we treat other human beings.
Wendy’s boss Philip (Iain Glen) spends the film trying his best to convince Wendy to deny Haile asylum and get on with her life. His character feels like an important critique of bureaucracy, where there’s mountains of paperwork and decisions are made by cold, unsympathetic men in suits. There’s no compassion here, not even after hours of interrogations.
These three characters repeatedly bounce off one another, putting the audience right in the centre of the drama. One man’s life is in the hands of two government workers, who have the power to completely ruin his life if they so desire. Haile is powerless when faced with his final obstacle – bureaucracy.
Visually, the film is full of dark imagery, shadows, and washed out yellows to present the film in a gritty, ‘untouched’ way. At times it does feel like a documentary based on the strength of the acting, and how current the issue is. What we see in the film, we see on the news constantly, and The Flood keeps reminding us of that fact.
Overall, this is a film that’s worth your time due to the important points it’s trying to highlight. Admittedly it’s quite predictable in places, and some things feel cliché (like a hardened officer drinking on the job), and I found the ending pretty obvious, but it’s an important story nonetheless. I was able to gloss over the film’s issues and focus on the matter at hand.
The topic of immigration is bound to cause division, but it’s important films like this exist in order to educate people about the reality. It has a limited release but I’d urge you to seek it out because, despite its flaws, it’s essential viewing.