Leaving to Remain
From director Mira Erdevički, documentary Leaving to Remain follows the lives of three Roma living in the UK. Ondrej is eager to start his academic career after being made to attend a special needs school in Slovakia. Denisa is the first Roma-British lawyer, and Petr has made it his mission in life to help his local community. Each of them have been living in Britain for a long time, but each likewise maintain strong ties to Europe. But when they’re faced with the harsh combination of Brexit and coronavirus, the trio begin to realise that they might not be as welcome in their new home as they originally thought.
Although it’s Erdevički who’s credited as the filmmaker, this documentary is really the subjects’ film: not only is it their lives on-camera, but it’s they and their families who capture the footage seen, using their phones. Erdevički even makes sure to include shots where the reflection of whoever’s filming is clearly visible. What this does is reinforce the authenticity of the stories being told – from Ondrej’s large family gathering at Christmas to Denisa playfully teasing her teenage son, this is an intimate and warmhearted film that unveils these people’s lives for audiences to see and understand.
The first section of Remaining to Leave deals with how much better life in the UK is for its cast. They explain how they don’t experience the same level of discrimination for their Roma background as they would in Europe; consequently, they now have better opportunities for education and careers. However, this conception is turned on its head when Brexit comes into the picture: whereas these families felt at home in England when viewers first met them, now they feel like they’re no longer welcome. With this disheartening thought come questions about prejudice, identity and immigration, but Erdevički is less concerned with providing answers than she is with presenting how the reality of this situation affects her subjects.
As insightful as this documentary’s concept is, it’s unfortunately let down by a noticeable lack of direction. It rambles on, repeating information until it decides it’s time to end. The result is that the short runtime is made to feel much longer than it is. Despite the engaging life stories on display, Leaving to Remain passes by without leaving much of an impact.
Leaving to Remain is released in select cinemas on 28th April 2023.
Watch the trailer for Leaving to Remain here: