Tori And Lokita: A soul-scorching thriller

The two leads, especially the boy (Pablo Schils), are heartbreaking in their desperate intensity

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Subhash K Jha

Tori And Lokita (French-Belgian)

Written  & Directed  by  Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

Rating: *** ½

Tori And Lokita is the latest, disturbing work of the two-time Palmes D’Or winners, the Dardenne brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc, who have collaborated on twelve films so far, all received with varying degrees of reverence and warmth.

I have personally enjoyed some of their past films like L’Enfant and Two Days One Night. Tori And Lokita is a very tough film to relish. It is way too dark for entertainment and far too pessimistic to be considered a tenable social comment. What it does do is give us a frightening inner view of what it means to be an illegal immigrant in a European country, in this case, Belgium where a young African woman Lokita (Mbundu Joely) and a little boy Tori (Pablo Schils) try to survive together in a hostile country by pretending to be siblings.

The bond between the actors and the characters they play is effectively synchronized. We can see that the two have really come to care for one another in the dismaying situation that they find themselves in.  

Then the director fastens his seatbelt and flies off into an action-thriller orbit, with Lokita and Tori being chased by a drug dealer and his accomplice to a tragic end. To be fair, the spirit of adventure that grips the narrative like a virus is a commercial concession that the film could do without. I would have liked to see more  about how Lokita and Tori met, and how their unlikely bond was formed rather than see them fleeing from the trashy drug dealers.    

Nonetheless, Tori And Lokita is a very powerful film, visually and emotionally. The visuals are bare austere and done with the care that persuades us to simply stare. The emotional bonding between Lokita and  Tori reinforces the theme of migratory kinship without hammering in the emotions.

The two leads, especially the boy (Pablo Schils), are heartbreaking in their desperate intensity.

How and when has Tori decided he will be the protective kid brother to a woman who is not related to him at all? Both the lead players are born to play their characters. The supporting actors are beyond brilliant. They don’t want to impress us with their performances. They just want to persuade us by their presence into believing that those who are homeless deserve some empathy  and dignity.

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