Although set in the Republic of Ireland, this modest but surprisingly powerful film will strike a raw nerve in countries across Europe in the wake of the Ukrainian refugee crisis. More specifically, it will have an impact on the UK arthouse circuit, following the recent controversial decision by the British government to launder asylum seekers through a scheme to deport Rwanda for processing.
Why its makers chose Tribeca as their launchpad is a bit of a mystery, and if it’s down to star power, any stray Marvel fan drawn by Letitia Wright’s MCU lineage is certainly in for a rollercoaster thrill-ride. will not be taken.
That said, anyone clinging to the integrity of its creative team and the careful, considered pace of the film will sympathize with its concerns.
Wright stars as Ayesha Osagi, a young Nigerian woman in her 20s living in a hostel in Ireland. While waiting for leave to live, Ayesha is favored by a position that allows her to work as a hairdresser’s assistant, and allows her to send the money back to her mother.
Things get brighter when Ayesha befriends friendly security guard Connor Healy (Josh O’Connor), who breaks company rules to spend time with Ayesha in a subtly non-intrusive manner. Will try to find out. What happened to her and her family, and why does she think her life will be in danger if she returns to Nigeria.
However, after a run-in with the hostel owner, Ayesha is asked to leave, and is transferred to a rural caravan park away from her workplace and her lawyer, where she has to wait until until he is interviewed with immigration officials. Connor, who has become attracted to her, watches from afar astonished.
The level of care and detail, sometimes at the expense of the story, gives Frank Berry’s film an air of authenticity, while being a bit honest, gives it license to detract from the offbeat love story that other directors may have embraced. O’Connor anointed an unexpected heartthrob by Francis Lee in his cult gay love story god’s own country (2017), is a highly inspired piece of casting, with Connor playing an artless ex-addict jailbird, down-turned but with a quietly rumble motor.
Her performance, perhaps the dictionary definition of benevolent, gives Wright much-needed space so that when she finally breaks her silence, it doesn’t feel like her family tragedy is just one big dramatic reveal—officials ask her to let them know. The story, Ayesha said, “is not the one” Story,
For example, Aisha covers some of the same ground covered by Ben Sharrock’s best film of 2021 limboWhich offered a more existential—and surprisingly humorous—purification of the depressing in which refugees find themselves. There’s also a Ken Loach-style sermon about red tape and bureaucracy, though, thankfully, it’s never quite as on-the-nose as the director’s Cannes hit. me, daniel blake,
Ayesha sits somewhere in the middle, takes a short, personal story and uses it as a lightning rod. The result is an unexpectedly effective piece of talking-point cinema; Ayesha’s case isn’t as cut and dry as you might think, and the big conclusion of Berry’s film is about the broader question of international law and responsibility, not just talking easy shots at government-set flawed solutions. It burns slowly, and while it never fully ignites, Ayesha leaves a surprisingly memorable aftertaste.