sat 23/10/2021

The Drifters review - lovers-on-the-run with little moral depth | reviews, news & interviews

The Drifters review - lovers-on-the-run with little moral depth

The Drifters review - lovers-on-the-run with little moral depth

Sloppy mash up of New Wave, Tarantino and post-Brexit issues

Off the road: Lucie Bourdeu and Jonathan Ajayi in The Drifters

The Drifters remakes the romance crime genre by placing the main themes of rebellion and freedom in the context of the race and migration divisions of present day Britain. It is a noble mission for a debut by British director Benjamin Bond.

Sadly, this film never gets close to succeeding in either developing a unique aesthetic, or engaging robustly in politics.

We begin in an English language class in London, where the Parisian waitress Fanny (Lucie Bourdeu) and African migrant Koffee (Jonathan Ajayi) meet and quickly fall in love. They are both escaping pasts of suffering. Fanny has a vague dream to go to America “to meet Quentin Tarantino”. Koffee finds a video of Fanny pretending to be Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction, a motif that is repeated throughout the film ad nauseam. The Thurman-Travolta dance scene (itself a parody of a Godard scene) has been parodied so much already in our culture that it’s hard to know what Bond wants to originate with this lazy rehash in his film.

The DriftersAfter Koffee bungles a robbery and has to flee an exploitative boss, Fanny and Koffee end up in what seems to be Cornwall. Amidst some tiresome beachside musing Koffee begins to talk about his past. This could have been a perfect moment for the film to dive into its political themes and critically analyse Britain’s troubled recent migration history. But this is sidelined by the interruptions of filler-scenes comprising sunset dancing and sham-romantic selfie sessions set to music. A sense of the vivid quandary of these supposed outsiders is lost.

Bond does not go deep enough in his exploration or experimentation. Scenes and styles seem to have been directly lifted from either Tarantino or the New Wave. What is lacking is the touch of a new artist’s reinterpretation. Godard would be horrified by the slothful use of the jump cut and montage. Bond uses them as cool devices slapped on purely to pad out a film that possesses few genuinely arresting scenes. Dramatic tension is what such a film requires. Bond’s formal choices suck the tension out.

The classic lovers-on-the-run films – They Live By Night, Bonnie and Clyde, Badlands – had complex characters and compelling drama. Koffee’s story could have filled the void in The Drifters if it had been respected. But his story is worn away by the Instagram aesthetic and partying vibes. Bond seems to shy away from exploring Koffee's issues too deeply. Unfortunately, the film’s moral engagement remains at surface level.

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