Tori and Lokita

Tony Richardson reviews the latest film by the Dardenne brothers. The film is in cinemas this week.


This film has received a lot of praise, but not for the right reasons, in my opinion. These directors are really good at dealing with the experiences of young people in Belgium.

But this movie is different in that it deals with the universal experience of refugees, and it is really timely. The British government, for example, is talking about denying refugees their right to asylum if they do not come by a regular route. The Catch 22 (if I win, you lose) is that the government has closed regular routes. Most people coming by boat, after their case is dealt with, are given the right to remain; now this too would be denied.

The film deals with two young people who have been trafficked together to Belgium. To try to get asylum, they claim to be brother and sister. Only the boy, Tori, gets asylum, but they are inseparable.

Their experiences in trying to get Lokita a visa contain many of the things that refugees are forced into. Under pressure from the trafficker for money, they deliver drugs. They try to send money to Lokita’s mother but the trafficker takes it.

They then try to get forged documents, but this involves working on a secret cannabis farm. Along the way, there is rape and even more violence.

When you realise that the attempt to get money home is to pay for the education of two of Lokita’s sisters, you come to the realisation that this is about all refugees, unable to survive where they are living.

In the end, Tori says at a church service that their whole life would have been different if only Lokita had been given a visa.

The film features excellent performances, and the strong bond between the two stems from Lokita’s rescue of Tori during the crossing from Africa. You believe in this bond, in this humanity, at the heart of the film, in contrast to the world that surrounds them.

Peter Bradshaw, the Guardian critic, argues that there are sometimes problems with plausibility in the brothers’ films. This seems ridiculous to me. This film should be shown everywhere precisely because of its plausibility, obviously drawn from many experiences. It shows the reality of people who have no way out.

Get to see it if you can, and tell others; then join the fight for the rights of refugees.

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