The Movie Waffler New Release Review [VOD] - THE DRIFTERS | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [VOD] - THE DRIFTERS

the drifters review
An African immigrant goes on the run from his criminal boss with his French girlfriend.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Ben  Bond

Starring: Jonathan Ajayi, Lucie Bourdeu, Jonjo O'Neill, Joey Akubeze, Tom Sweet

the drifters poster

Sometimes a movie wins you over in spite of itself/yourself. With its forced French New Wave affectations and tone deaf racial politics, writer/director Ben Bond's feature debut The Drifters tried its best to wind me up. But despite its best efforts to rub me the wrong way, I ultimately found it a breezy diversion thanks to the charm of its young leads.

the drifters review

As our heroes, Fanny and Koffee, Lucie Bourdeu and Jonathan Ajayi are magnetic, managing to make something of characters that are little more than crudely drawn stereotypes. Fanny is a pretty French immigrant to London who works as a waitress and enjoys a carefree existence. Koffee is a refugee from an unnamed war-torn African nation, living illegally in the UK and working for a ruthless mobster who promises him the ultimate reward of an Irish passport when he's worked off his debt by running a car wash and engaging in jewellery store heists.

The pair have a meet cute when they're asked to perform a role play in their English class and quickly hit it off. When Koffee steals his boss's gun, car and Irish passport, he needs to go into hiding and so invites Fanny for a trip to the south coast. Over a sunny weekend, the pair take in the sights, engage in some petty criminality and fall in love.

the drifters review

From its pre-credits sequence, in which Fanny breaks the fourth wall and reels off her nonchalant personal philosophy, The Drifters attempts to pay tribute to 1960s Godard in cringey fashion. Taking Pierrot le Fou as its model, Bond's film gives us an attractive young couple on the run, whom he gratingly uses as a mouthpiece on a variety of what seem to be personal bugbears, from Brexit to the state of modern TV commercials. But what was revolutionary in 1965 now comes off as crass and cheesy.

It doesn't help that Bond's liberal politics are in contrast to the tone deaf portrayal of his foreign protagonists. The gamine Fanny couldn't be more of a French stereotype if she wore a string of garlic around her neck, and with her constant movie references she feels like she's been created in a lab by some horny male film student. Koffee is treated as a unicorn by both the film and Fanny, who despite hailing from Paris, acts as though he's the first Black person she's ever met. "Where you a child soldier?" and "Do Black people swim?" are among her face-palming queries.

the drifters review

And yet for all of the above, I frequently found myself settling into The Drifters' easy-going rhythm. Maybe it's because at time of writing my government has forbidden me from exiting a five km radius of my residence, but just hanging out in a seaside town for 90 minutes felt like something of a tonic for the soul. Despite how crudely sketched their characters are, Bourdeu and Ajayi are genuine talents and share an affecting chemistry. When they're not trying to be Karina and Belmondo they almost feel like real people, and had the movie dropped its New Wave posturing and erased its pointless criminal subplot, it might have functioned as a genuinely charming tale of young love.

The Drifters
 is released in UK/ROI virtual cinemas from 2 April and on demand 5 April 2021 (Apple TV and iTunes).

2021 movie reviews