The Flood opens with hardened immigration officer Wendy (played by Lena Headey of Game of Thrones fame) firing questions at asylum seekers with dead-behind-the-eyes efficiency. Soon she takes on a new case, that of Haile (Ivanno Jeremiah), a refugee from an unnamed African country who manages to get under her skin. Through a series of prolonged flashbacks, Haile recounts his horrific journey to the ‘jungle’ camp in Calais and finally to the UK.
As is only right, Haile’s story takes up most screen time - the reality of a refugee’s journey to Europe portrayed with devastatingly accurate detail. Above all else it is the dehumanising impact of this experience that is emphasised: ‘It was the first time in 9,000 kilometres someone asked my name,’ Haile recounts when a fellow refugee shows him a modicum of kindness. This stripping away of humanity is further emphasised through a fairly uncompromising look at the British immigration system. While the majority of the film is vividly shot over a wide range of brutal landscapes, there is something particularly chilling in the repeated return to the clinical white room of the asylum interview.
Woodley’s greatest success in The Flood is the way he leaves room for sympathy both for Haile, whose innocence and goodness could elicit no other emotion, but also for Wendy, whose coldness is gradually revealed to be a mask that allows her to do her job in the face of demanding Home Office targets. Though at no point is the viewer under any illusion who has led the harder life, the gradual softening of the relationship reveals the fundamental human need for emotional connection against all the odds.
The film ultimately offers a positive view of human nature that may not wash, given all the horrors it portrays, but this doesn't detract from the ultimate message - that refugees who reach the UK have often gone through horrific ordeals and that for many, there is no happy ending.
The Flood is on general release at cinemas and on demand from today.
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