Cast: Vincent Lindon, Firat Ayverdi
Director: Philippe Loiret
Welcome is a film which will have you thinking long after the credits roll.
It's the story of Kurdish refugee Bilal (underplayed with quiet resolve by Firat Ayverdi) who is determined to make it to England to see his recently emigrated girlfriend and to get a better life.
So, initially he tries to get through the French border in a lorry along with a group of fellow refugees - and it's all going well until they hit Calais and Bilal, wearing a plastic bag on his head, has a panic attack and they're all busted.
Suddenly Bilal finds himself in France and one day upon seeing the white cliffs of Dover decides that he can swim for freedom and for a new life.
And that's how he meets Simon (a gruff Vincent Lindon) as he seeks swimming lessons from him.
Gradually a friendship is formed and Simon tries to do what he can to help Bilal...but will it be enough?
Welcome is an at times gritty and desperate affair, accurately recording the routine degradations and desperations of the refugee community. The sight of them with bags on their heads in the lorry as they head to Calais is depressing and claustrophobic; and as they converge on Bilal's swimming pool to shower and get thrown out of supermarkets it's a sad indictment of what our world's coming to.
Lindon's Simon undergoes a subtle change of character - initially gruff and with his head in the sand to the plight of the refugees, he gradually warms to the very quiet and determined Bilal and risks everything to help - including the wrath of the police who are hunting clandestines.
Welcome is a film about humanity and hope - and you may leave the cinema feeling initially depressed and saddened, but ultimately it's a provocatively underplayed affair which will haunt you.