Welcome is the third film to receive the European Parliament’s Lux Prize, awarded to movies that show “the process of building Europe in a different light.” Previous winners were the superior The Edge of Heaven and Lorna’s Silence; unfortunately, Philippe Lioret’s film—a would-be sober examination of illegal immigrants desperately trying to get into England—brings down the relatively high standard. Kurdish illegal immigrant Bilal (Firat Ayverdi) has traveled from Iraq to Calais on foot, hanging underneath trains and trucks to reunite with his girlfriend in England. He then decides to swim the English Channel, under the training of local ex-champ/trainer Simon (Vincent Lindon). Starting strong with its atmospheric immersion in the herd of immigrants killing time by the docks, Welcome quickly shrugs off credibility by equating Bilal’s quest with Simon’s angst over his recent divorce. Both characters are motivated by girl trouble, but it’s an absurd script contrivance that Simon would risk arrest and befriend a boy in days just to prove to his ex-wife that he’s politically committed. The dialogue clunkily wraps it up: “He’s walked 4,000 kilometers. Now he wants to swim the Channel,” Simon tells his wife. “I couldn’t even cross the road to get you back.” Heavy ironies like that drop regularly, undermining both the film’s intentions and the drama.
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