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Film of the Week: Trauma and aftermath

MARIA DUARTE recommends a brutally honest drama which provides a fresh look at the lives of refugees

Drift (15)
Directed by Anthony Chen

HOW do you deal with the loss of identity and how do you begin to rebuild it and cope with trauma? Those are some of the questions at the heart of this brutally honest drama which provides a fresh look at the lives of refugees. 

The film follows a young woman from Liberia Jacqueline (Cynthia Erivo) who has escaped her war-torn country and ended up on a Greek island where she is struggling to survive and come to terms with her past. She is at drift in body and mind until she meets US tour guide Callie (Alia Shawkat) and a friendship blossoms. This results in the two women saving each other. 

It is based on Alexander Maksik’s novel, A Marker to Measure Drift, which he adapted for the big screen with Susanne Farrell. The film, directed by Anthony Chen, presents a character that we have not seen before. Jacqueline is a refugee from an affluent and privileged background who has fallen from grace as the flashbacks to her life in Liberia and London show. They also depict a fun-loving extrovert who is the antithesis to the shell of the person she has become: introverted and distrustful of everyone. She sleeps in a cave on the beach and steals sugar sachets from cafes for sustenance because she is penniless, and has to resort to offering tourists on the beach foot massages for money. 

Erivo, who produced and wrote, and performs a song in Drift, gives the performance of her career alongside Shawkat who is equally impressive. This is a slow-burning drama with a harrowing reveal when Jacqueline finally breaks down in front of Callie while she is having a bath. As she describes the way her family were tortured and callously gunned down by child soldiers it makes for a particularly hard watch. This invisible woman is finally seen and in doing so Erivo delivers a heartbreaking turn. 

It also shows the importance of human connection and kindness in a quietly powerful and restrained tale. It will hopefully stop people judging refugees and see them in a humane light. 

Out in cinemas March 29.

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