The River (United Kingdom, 16 minutes)
Directed by: John Michell
Written by: Rupert Raby
Cast: Robert Emms, Clive Russell
Ray is a dredger. He’s 59 and has worked on the river all his life. But the arrival of a new, gobby workmate - Kenny - makes him want to jump overboard. When Kenny pries into Ray’s private life it all becomes too much. Ray abandons ship and sets off down the river in a little sailing boat. Kenny, fearing Ray is on a suicide mission, goes after him. But it’s soon evident that they’ve both taken on more than they bargained for. With Ray’s state of mind, they both need saving.
By: Maria Akay
John Michell’s beautifully shot The River gives way to an old man’s struggle to cope with a lost love. The scenic shots of the river and the boating industry that surrounds it, sets the stage for Clive Russell’s amazing portrayal of Ray - a homosexual man who’s suffering the loss of his love Jacob, who fell victim to the same river by drowning.
The introduction of Ray’s assistant Kenny, played wonderfully by Robert Emms, seems to set up the common character trope of crabby old boss and annoying but well-intentioned assistant who eventually become friends. The River takes us as viewers on a journey of how to arrive to this point of mutual respect and understanding. Ray is visibly shaken when Kenny uncovers his secret and takes to the river in a row boat. Solitary shots of a small boat on this massive river bordering an endless sky seem to imply Ray is looking to be reunited with his lover Jacob in the most dire way.
With a great literary touch, Michell appropriately created the character Ray as a dredger - a person who works machinery on a boat to literally bring to the surface old materials that have been collecting at the bottom of the river. Kenny finds his way to Ray’s row boat, only to stay stranded with him for the night. While Kenny worries about getting back to his girlfriend, Ray worries only of saying his final goodbye to the love of his life. While on the boat, Ray and Kenny come to terms with repressed emotions in completely different ways. Ray literally saves Kenny’s life, and Kenny urges Ray to keep living by freeing himself from his pain. The River is an official selection of the New York City Independent Film Festival and will be shown during the festival on October 12-18, 2015.