Welcome (15)

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Review byMatthew Turner04/11/2009

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 110 mins

Impressively directed French drama that packs a powerfully emotional punch, thanks to a strong script and a pair of terrific performances from Vincent Lindon and Firat Ayverdi.

What's it all about?
Directed by Philippe Lioret, Welcome stars Firat Ayverdi (who looks a lot like Michael Cera) as Bilal, a 17-year-old Iraqi boy who has arrived in Calais after a three month, 4,000 kilometre trek from Iraq, hoping to cross the Channel in order to reunite with Mina (Derya Ayverdi), the love of his life. However, his trauma-induced claustrophobia scuppers an attempt to stow away in a truck and when Bilal sees that the cliffs of Dover are visible from the shore, he decides to swim the Channel.

Seeking lessons at the local swimming pool, Bilal meets recently-divorced swimming instructor Simon (Vincent Lindon), who quickly works out Bilal's plan and is moved by his determination. After several charged encounters with the authorities, his racist neighbours and his socially conscious ex-wife (Audrey Dana as Marion), Simon decides to help Bilal however he can but things get complicated when they discover that Mina's father is planning to marry her off as soon as possible.

The Good
Vincent Lindon is on typically great form as the world-weary Simon, whose motives are both complex and intriguing - is he hoping to impress his ex-wife, taking a stand against institutional racism or just inspired by Bilal's passion and determination? Lindon's perpetually hangdog expression pays wonderful dividends throughout, particularly in the interrogation scenes.

Firat Ayverdi is equally good, delivering a powerfully engaging performance as Bilal that ensures we really root for him to succeed. There's also strong support from Audrey Dana and Derya Ayverdi, as well as Firat Celik as Bilal's friend Koban.

The Great
The dialogue (much of which is in broken English) is superb and the excellent script includes moments of humour (such as word getting out that immigrants can shower at the swimming centre) and takes several well-aimed potshots at the draconian French immigration laws (such as the fact that it's illegal for French citizens to offer any kind of help or support to immigrants). Similarly, the characters and relationships are extremely well drawn, ensuring that the gut-wrenching climax packs a powerful emotional punch.

Worth seeing?
Welcome is a powerfully emotional, superbly directed French drama with a strong script and terrific performances from Lindon and Ayverdi. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 25/09/2018 14:09

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