Bruce Goodison’s debut feature, Leave to Remain, couldn’t arrive in the UK at a more convenient moment. We’ve all witnessed UKIP’s rise during the recent elections in Britain, and Goodison’s powerful movie appropriately looks at the hardship endured by young adult asylum seekers. The film intimately portrays the difficulties suffered by the thousands of asylum seekers throughout the country, giving a voice to those who are purely searching for a better life in Britain.
The tale follows a young Afghan boy, Abdul, as he arrives at a refuge home, struggling to grasp the language as well as a comfortable lifestyle. He is greeted into the home led by English teacher Nigel (Toby Jones). The home is compiled of a mixture of ethnicities and various characters, including Omar, who is soon to have refugee status decided upon. However, the arrival of Abdul, whom he knew in a previous life, threatens to have Omar rejected. He therefore tries everything in his power to stop Abdul from blurting out a very important secret that could change everything.
‘Leave To Remain’ is the phrase every asylum seeker wants to hear and Goodison’s film is a unique observation into the brutal and stressful system that is unseen. Goodison assembles an intriguing and impressive cast – a concoction of established British actors such as Jones, alongside true refugees, all products of Goodison’s acting academy that he has worked with for the last three years. This helps to raise the authenticity of the story at hand, with each actor knowing exactly what emotions and traumas the characters are going through. Goodison never feels compelled to overuse the recognised Jones in order to enhance the reputation of his feature, but instead allows his group of amateur actors to prove their talents, which is amiable to say the least as they certainly manage to deliver.
The film is shot like a docu-drama, giving the audience enough factual information to truly understand the difficult position of these kids, balanced with some absorbing drama. A canny choice of soundtrack is also a key to the film, with Mercury Prize winning band Alt-J providing a chilling musical tone behind the visuals. Goodison therefore takes an edgy subject and adds a stylish and contemporary twist.
Leave to Remain provokes a humanitarian question to be asked and its main purpose is to enlighten people on the issue at hand. It undoubtedly reminds its audience of the importance of human rights, yet perhaps this suggests that a hard-hitting documentary would have been more sufficient given the message behind it all, using facts and real life people rather than characters to take us through the ordeals.
Nevertheless, Leave to Remain is a stylish and modern take on a serious issue currently at the forefront of British politics and culture. Special mentions should be made to the academy actors for making the film so genuine, in particular Zarrien Masieh and Noof Ousellam. Goodison must take great acclaim therefore for the risks he took in this feature, as the end result is of good nature and is a film that must be taken seriously in order to fulfil the true meaning of humanity.
Leave to Remain is in cinemas from 20th June.