Director: Philippe Lioret | 110 minutes | drama | Actors: Vincent Lindon, Firat Ayverdi, Audrey Dana, Derya Ayverdie, Thierry Godard, Selim Akgul, Firat Celik, Murat Subasi, Olivier Rabourdin, Yannick Renier, Mouafaq Rushdie, Behi Djanati Ataï, Patrick Ligardes, Jean-Pol Brissart, Blandine Pélissier, Eric Herson-Macarel, Gilles Masson, Emmanuel Courcol, Jean-François Fagour
At the age of 17, Bilal walked from Iraq to France in three months. At all costs he wants to go to his – also Kurdish – girlfriend Mina who emigrated to England with her family. Arriving in Calais, the last part of the journey immediately turns out to be the most difficult part. As illegal it turns out that you cannot just cross the road. However, Bilal does not give up and decides to swim to England after a failed smuggling attempt. For this he needs swimming lessons and that’s how he meets swimming teacher Simon.
When Mina threatens to be married off, Bilal first resigns to his fate: if Mina’s father wants his daughter to marry her cousin, so be it. Simon, feeling more and more involved, encourages Bilal not to give up and so Bilal makes his first attempt to swim across the channel.
It is poignant to see that Mina and Bilal cannot be together. Despite the fact that Mina now lives in Het Vrije Westen and has a residence permit, according to cultural traditions, she is not allowed to marry the love of her life. Although you wonder for a moment why she doesn’t travel alone to France to meet Bilal there and maybe even marry him secretly. It is logical to assume that she cannot do this for the same cultural reasons, but could have been worked out a bit more. On the other hand, there is Bilal who cynically can decide for himself where to go and where he stands, until he arrives in Calais. The so-called Free West is limiting him.
“Welcome” depicts the gray reality of life and the extent to which you as a person can make a choice in this regard. Bilal actually has no choice but to swim to England, Mina really has no choice but to marry her cousin. Simon and Marion do have freedom of choice: it is all just as fixed for them as they commit themselves to something. But who or what determines the motivation behind their choices?
Sometimes “Welcome” comes across as a documentary. Director Philippe Lioret first of all intended to tell the migrant’s story. With his film he aims to touch people and make them think about the current situation of the migrants. We succeeded. The word welcome (or welcome) can often be found on doormats, including in the film. It makes you wonder to what extent people really mean that. Is someone with such a doormat really open to, for example, his neighbors? Let alone for strangers who need help? What would you actually do if someone asked for your help, where are your limits?
Not only the image of the daily struggle of the illegal immigrants raises these questions. Simon’s life story in particular puts everything in perspective. It is nice to see how the other side is illuminated. How migrant politics can personally affect the residents of Calais and Simon in particular. More specifically, how the encounters with Bilal change him. From a slow swimming teacher he grows into a man who does everything for love, first for his own love and later – when he finally realizes that it is really over – for the love of Bilal and Mina.
Despite the fact that Bilal and Mina are played by two amateur actors, this does not irritate. It fits in with the story of the two young and still naive lovers. Simon is played by Vincent Lindon, much loved in France, and it can be seen that he has completely mastered his role. Audrey Dana who plays Marion seems less aware of what to do with her role and is therefore less convincing.
“Welcome” is poignant in its kind, with the wintry Calais as a location that emphasizes the rawness. All relationships are doomed to failure. Whether it is the relationship between Bilal and Mina, Bilal and Simon or Simon and Marion. Not only personal relationships are not going well. Society is also not friendly towards Bilal and Simon. Both those who can use help and those who offer help are punished by the aliens police. This discouragement policy is not strange in itself, but it does emphasize how inhumane it is. “Welcome” very aptly shows a story of how people deal with it and is therefore a film that will stay with you for a while.