The Flood, from director Anthony Woodley and writer Helen Kingston, exists to shed light on a major issue. Its makers want to bring attention to the situation and raise awareness. People need to know what’s going on, and the film is only trying to do the right thing. In applying standard movie storytelling techniques to a complex issue, however, the film undermines its own thesis—and what’s worse, scores harmful points instead.
The crisis? Our world’s refugee problem. If you’ve been following the news, it sometimes appears as though whole swaths of the Middle East and Africa are on the move. The reasons for this are many: lack of opportunity, civil unrest, war—but the root cause can usually be traced back to imperialism and colonialism. The Flood is a noticeably British film centring on two characters: Haile (Ivanno Jeremiah), a reluctant soldier from Eritrea, and Wendy (Lena Headey), an immigration officer in the middle of a divorce who has taken to drinking on the job. What follows is a parallel narrative of struggle. We learn what it takes for Haile to make it to the UK, and we peel back the layers of Wendy’s life. While these two are in no way equal, the film seeks to strike a balance regardless, suggesting Wendy’s troubles make her empathetic to Haile’s journey—just one of the film’s restrictive value judgments. I mean, shouldn’t immigration officers be empathetic as a rule? And to go a step further, do we really need to see all the ways in which Haile is “one of the good ones” before deciding, yes, he can stay? The film arrives at safe harbour, but those questions (and more) are left unanswered.
While The Flood documents the misery experienced by many people across the globe, it also provides comfort to the powerful. Yes, both Jeremiah and Headey tearfully work their characters towards peace, each affecting the other’s life for the better. What we appear to learn, however, is that justice has been done, that the current system works—and that we’re not still adrift at sea.