In nighttime Morroco, Gyllen (Fionn Whitehead) a young British runaway is urgently phoning round anyone he knows. Stuck with a stolen camper van that won’t start, he’s starting to panic. From afar Congolese immigrant William (Stéphane Bak) watches his distress. Sliding down the hillside, William decides to help him get the camper van started. By way of thanks, Gyllen offers to give William a lift to wherever he’s going. It’s a fateful decision and one that will result in a life-changing journey for both of them.
... is as much about journey taken on the inside as it is the distance travelled on the outside.
Director Sebastian Schipper’s ‘Roads’ is as much about journey taken on the inside as it is the distance travelled on the outside. Navigating such issues as immigration, rejection and growing up, ‘Roads’ is a surprisingly mature drama that grows in import the closer the boys arrive at their respective destinations.
In terms of its acting ‘Dunkirk’s’ Fionn Whitehead builds upon his mainstream arrival as Gyllen. An errant youth who’s clearly lost his way before Stéphane Bak’s more mature William finds him, any layers of assumption and privilege naturalistically fall both of their performances. Neither wallowing in the touristy antics of Danny Boyle’s ‘The Beach’ nor the brutal realism of Diego Quemada-Díez’s ‘The Golden Cage’, ‘Roads’ is instead a sober take on a global reality whose real-world effects seem to have long since disappeared from the newspaper headlines.
Seen as a microcosmic story, Schipper’s pulls off a delicate balancing act between melodrama and topicality and is due much credit for the movie’s sense of restraint. In what could have been a more sensational tale, the situation never obscures the drama and vice-versa. The result is an absorbing film with two central performances that grow in believability and a story that arrests your attention whilst quietening any reservations you might have had.
Broaden your horizons and hit the ‘Roads’ whilst you can.