An insightful, moving film, Marc Isaacs’ documentary, The Road: A Story of Life and Death chronicles the lives of those people living on the A5, the main route into London for those trying to make a new life in the capital.
Primarily, this is a story of individuals, and Isaacs has found some real characters. The 95-year-old blind Jewish lady who moved to the city from Vienna after the Nazis invaded, buoyed by a surprising amount good humour since her husband’s passing four years previously, is likely to be a high point for many. The experiences of other immigrants are similarly cheerful, albeit in an unlikely sort of way, from the young Irish woman hoping to make it as a singer, to a German former stewardess who, along with her estranged, unfaithful husband, has set up a home for foreign students.
Ultimately, however, it’s the stories of loss and heartbreak that resonate most strongly: a hotel porter from Kerala desperately missing his wife back home, a Burmese apprentice to a group of Buddhist monks who has been separated from his family, and an Irish alcoholic who has found himself washed up in Cricklewood. It’s this last story that’s most difficult to watch, as Isaacs subtly questions not only the broken dreams of those people that flock to London in search of a better life, but the reality of the city’s multiculturalism and its capacity for isolation. The Road is peopled by characters unsure of their place in a city, some managing to turn their lives around for the better, while others are swallowed whole. It’s a film that manages to be both personable and inquiring at the same time.
The Road airs as part of the London Film Festival on 20 October at The Ritzy. Tickets are available from the BFI website.