Tori and Lokita
The Dardennes brother’s latest feature Tori and Lokita sees the eponymous immigrant children (played by Pablo Schils and Mbundu Joely respectively) finally arrive in Belgium after travelling together. To acquire their citizenship, the pair need to pretend to be brother and sister, which is no problem given how inseparable they have become (at one point Lokita has a panic attack when she isn’t able to talk to her surrogate brother). The struggle the two of them face is acquiring the money to fund their papers and pay back people traffickers. With no other options, Tori gets a job delivering drugs, whereas Lokita agrees to work in a cannabis farm in the middle of nowhere. Suffice to say, both children find themselves in very dangerous situations with people who are even more dangerous.
Intended as a dramatic representation of the exploitation and hardship displaced people are put through, the filmmakers treat their production with the utter seriousness its subject deserves. Everything is shot as if someone were following the children with a camera, giving the whole feature a cinéma vérité quality. There’s no fancy camerawork or even any non-diegetic music to speak of here. Tori And Lokita is presented with a gritty realism to an extent so committed to its style that it backfires on itself.
Despite the noble intentions behind this feature, it comes across as soulless and devoid of any sense of urgency or stakes when it comes to the children’s perilous situations, thus making it difficult to become invested in their struggle. The only thing keeping the film afloat is the commendable performances of its young cast; if it weren’t for them, there’d be absolutely nothing of emotional value for audiences to latch onto.
The ending, too, is especially heartless in its sudden bluntness. Its meaning is abundantly clear in terms of the message that the filmmakers aim to communicate, but, it simply doesn’t carry the devastating blow it was meant to have.
Tori and Lokita is released in select cinemas on 2nd December 2022.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2022 coverage here.
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Watch a clip from Tori and Lokita here: