The Road: A Story of Life and Death

Marc Isaacs

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In a hotel on London's Edgware Road Iqbal, an unassuming concierge from Kashmir, organises the hotel guest's suitcases. He turns towards the filmmaker:

"It's the same for everyone and it's the same for me….when you leave your country and come to a new place you lose your home twice. You lose the place you have come from, it will be impossible to go back once you have burnt the bridges, and then, the place you have high hopes of… you think it will be the most civilised place in the world but then you learn this can not be true".

It's these universal themes of loss, belonging and the search for home that pre-occupy Isaacs in his fourth and latest film to be set in the Capital. As in many of his previous films. Lift, (2001) Calais (2003), All White In Barking (2008) and Men of the City (2010) he takes an everyday 'unremarkable' place, in this case the A5, the oldest Roman built road in London, as a frame within which to weave numerous stories that together create a broad tapestry of the human experience.

The Road - A Story of Life and Death, begins at the road's end 300 miles away from London in Holyhead, Wales. Keelta a young Irish woman, armed with a guitar and a promising voice, is on route down the road to London with the hope of making a new life for herself in the big city. Keelta's journey has, of course, been made by previous generations of the Irish and her story runs in plural to that of Billy, one of the few remaining Irishmen still living on the road who came in search of work in the 1960s. The watery eyed Billy invites Isaacs into his life at at time when many years of isolation on the road are beginning to take their toll.

Whilst all the characters in this film live or work on the same road they remain largely unaware of each others existence but what resonates are the common and sometimes contrasting themes running through all of their lives. A couple of miles down the road from Billy, an elderly Jewish refugee from Vienna has lived an altogether different life. Peggy, now 95, escaped vienna before the Nazis arrived and against the odds managed to create a fulfilling life for herself. With great humour and lust for life, she charms us with her energy and hilarious stories of her difficult marriage as well as deeply moving insights into her relationship with her now deceased mother. Difficult relationships are a mark of this film. Brigiite a German born former air-hostess, came to the road after falling in love with Royston, an Englishman. Now divorced, she is struggling to come to terms with life admitting that she was at her most happiest when in the air, rootless and free. Today she runs an ostentatious lodge for foreign language students which is also serves as her home. Royston spends his days sick in his bed at the back of the house dependent on Bridgette's good will.

Unlikely, touching and empathetic characters and situations are what interest Isaacs and there are plenty on offer here. From a Shiite self flagellation ceremony in a converted warehouse in Cricklewood to a group of Buddhist monks living in a suburban semi, The Road throws up plenty of incongruous scenes. This is the kind of documentary filmmaking that believes passionately in the idea of discovery. There is no script and therefore no pre-determined outcome. Isaacs doesn't just simply film the reality he finds, the film is highly subjective, full of interventions designed to provoke us to make connections between the characters and to view their struggles and preoccupations as our own.

Original languageEnglish
PublisherBungalow Town Productions / Crow Hill Films
Media of outputFilm
Size75 min
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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