Shiona Penrake’s review published on Letterboxd:
I watched an early screening of 'The Flood' at the Islington Vue in the small padlocked screening room downstairs. Guess how many people watched it with me?
It was just me and one man, sitting on the far corners of the room, hidden in shadow.
I usually go to Vue for the Super Monday deal, £5 a ticket. But for this one, I had to pay the full rate, more than twice as much. For the first time of my life, I am more than glad to pay extra for a movie. Like donating to charity, it left a warm feeling in my heart to think I was supporting a story that deserves to be told.
This film could easily have come across as sensational and excessively pious, but never shirked from the harsh reality of its subject matter. Director Anthony Woodley gave us the unadorned, bitter truth about an average immigrant’s fate and wasn’t afraid so we might wake up and take a more active role in the ongoing debate about immigration.
We're given the perspective of Wendy, a hardened immigration officer, played by Lena's Headey. She's become a bit numb to the sea of tragedy before her – but her feelings change when she hears the story of Ivanno Jeremiah's immigrant Haile, from Eritrea.
Because he is educated and has some charisma, I was half expecting his story to be full of twists and turns and a big reveal in the end. But the story as he tells it and we see it seems very straightforward and typical of an immigrant’s experience.
One thing that got me thinking was how different the movie would have been if the main character was an immigrant with poor English. What if the immigrant was born with poor education, who escaped from a terrorist war zone, perhaps had a young family with him? Would this increase the risk level and thrill as they travelled to the UK? It could be a better watch experience if we followed an immigrant who faced even greater adversities. On the other hand, by making him educated, he was more of a challenge for Headey’s immigrant officer.
The main highlight of the film is Haile's journey. There’s a quiet epic-ness to Haile's story that I really enjoyed. Though it doesn't have the common tropes of an adventure story - there are no antagonists going after Haile, it has very few obstacles that slow down his journey – we got a very real sense of the world he passed through – from the Calais "jungle" to the cramped confines of a sugar lorry, the settings look as foreign as a dystopian world, and the scary thing about it is that the film is based on a collection of true stories.
The sudden cuts taking us back to the present time, as Wendy absorbs Haile’s story, admittedly slow down the pace, but Lena Headey's performance is so captivating that her small B-plot about her marital problems is just as compelling. Iain Glen is very good as the sympathetic but pragmatic officer she works with. Ivanno steals the show as Haile, and the other actors, who played the immigrants like the Pakistani couple, and the "fixer", who arranges Haile's illegal transport from Calais to England, also give very good performances.
The only flaw about the film is the lack of set-up before Haile's journey. Like why did Haile spare this one particular prisoner from execution? What is this military organisation that he betrayed? How did he get out of the country so quickly? We didn't even get an inkling about the politics in Eritrea.
With strong suspense, excellent performances and settings, this is a simple film that seeks to give us a glimpse into a hidden, dangerous world that our government constantly overlooks and shields from public scrutiny. I highly recommend it.
I feel inspired by Woodley's success in making such a small epic film with a budget of only £3 million, especially as he only has one other feature film under his belt. I wish him success in funding his next film!