Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, starring Dina Korzun, Paddy Considine and Artiom Strelnikov.
A dead end seaside town is the backdrop for Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski's harrowing and heart-warming tale of two asylum seekers in Britain. Tanya (Korzun) and her son Artiom (Strelnikov) travel to London from Russia to be reunited with English boyfriend Mark. But he never shows up and the new arrivals suddenly find themselves on the end of a barrage of whys and wherefores from immigration officials.
Desperate to see her man, Tanya claims political asylum and she and Artiom are transported to a holding centre in Stonehaven, a run down resort on the south coast. For Tanya, Stonehaven is a battleground for endless attacks on her spirit: decrepit accommodation, unsympathetic 'civil' servants and, most ominously of all, shady characters with offers of 'work'. The only consolation is Alfie (Considine), a genial arcade manager who befriends mother and son.
Shot in documentary style and driven by an improvised script, Pawlikowski's film is a brave study of a pass-the-buck situation which is current throughout modern-Europe. But rather than dwell on the politics, he focuses on the day-in day-out grind of life as a number, the small victories people experience and the friendships they form.
There's a wonderful natural feel to the entire film (both cast and crew lived together for the duration of the shoot) and the fact that characters switch from English to Russian within scenes only heightens that the sense that you're watching real people with real problems. Korzun and Considine hone their characters to perfection and the tentative relationship between Tanya and Alfie is beautifully handled (and beautifully shot by director of photography Ryszard Lenczewski), never gathering too much pace or falling prey to perfect resolutions.
Pawlikowski and his cast have been honoured for this film at festivals across the continent, the greatest award for them would be for you to watch and think.