London Film Festival 2012 – day two: The Road
Wednesday 17th October, 8.45pm – BFI Southbank
Saturday 20th October, 4.15pm – Ritzy
Cricklewood High Road is like many other main thoroughfares in London, part ancient highway, part High Street, changing from domestic houses to shops to motorway within a few blocks. Such places have long been a melting pot for incomers to the city.
Marc Isaacs focusses on several immigrants, weaving together what they have in common – mainly alienation. Different waves of nationalities congregate in various areas of London – in Cricklewood it used to be Irish, and so we meet Billy who left Ireland as a young man. Now retired, life revolves around other such displaced old boys in the Irish pub. We also meet a young woman fresh from the old country, still full of dreams of being a singer, now pulling pints and singing her heart out with ballads from home, wringing a tear from the other ex-pats.
The characters become very endearing the more they open up, and Isaacs seems to have created great trust as they allow the camera into their homes and into their more vulnerable moments. Diminutive and ancient Ruby was from Vienna and has been in London since the war. She lives with diminishing sight but with hilarious relief now that her overbearing husband has died.
From Burma, Kashmir and Germany, others travel through or end up in London. What everyone seems to have in common is that they flock together and recreate something of life from their home country. For some, although they may settle, they will never really assimilate. As Billy puts it, you lose two homes, where you came from, and what you had imagined London to be. Once the realities kick in, going back seems impossible.
We hear Isaacs question his subjects like a disembodied Louis Theroux, but he keeps himself out of the frame. There are problems throughout the film with sound levels – sometimes the background noises, traffic, footsteps, chatting, drown out what the subjects are saying, and at times the volume of small details is screechingly high.
The documentary puts the dispossessed and displaced in the spotlight. It certainly makes you wonder again about what lies behind urban doors – it could be the Buddhist temple with the flashing electrified altar or the house of the German lady who used to be an air hostess, and has created her elaborate home based on all the hotels she used to stay in.
Read more reviews from the 56th London Film Festival here.