Tori and Lokita (15) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, Belgium 2022, 89 mins.

Cast: Joely Mbundu, Pablo Schils, Alban Ukaj

Review by Carlie Newman

With two amazing performances by new untrained young actors, the Belgian Dardenne brothers bring a very moving tale to the screen. Winner of the 75th Anniversary Prize at the Cannes film festival this year, Tori and Lokita tells how two very young West African migrants try to survive in Belgium.

Tori (Pablo Schils) and Lokita (Joely Mbundu) meet on a boat as they flee from Africa. Separated from their families, they claim to be brother and sister. As a vulnerable minor alone, Tori has the necessary identity papers, but Lokita hasn’t and needs them. She tries to convince the immigration officials that they are related, that Tori is her younger brother. In spite of Tori’s schooling her in the answers to questions she may be asked, the officials are not buying Lokita’s story.

We see them singing sweetly in a restaurant and then the scene shifts to the kitchen where the chef, Betim (Alban Ukaj) uses the youngsters to deliver drugs. He also demands sexual favours from Lokita and she feels forced to oblige in order to keep the drug running and also to get extra cash to send to her mother.

As the two battle to keep together and survive in the bad environment where they live, we see how they care for each other and share a very loving relationship.

It is not a happy story. We keep watching in the vain hope that all will turn out well for the children.

Schils and Mbundu give very moving, utterly believable performances and the film gives us a real picture of life for undocumented vulnerable child refugees. This is Belgium, but it could be any other city in Europe.

Highly recommended.