review for In This World on AllMovie

In This World (2002)
by Elbert Ventura review

Michael Winterbottom's In This World represents a stark departure from his previous film, the jaunty 24 Hour Party People, but such eclecticism has come to be expected from the protean British director. Inspired by the refugee plight in Europe and the virulent strain of xenophobia that has accompanied it, Winterbottom set out to make a movie detailing the dangerous journey migrants from the Third World make to find a better life in the more prosperous West. The movie narrows its focus to two refugees, but their story is clearly meant to be emblematic of the larger narrative of desperate migration. Shot on the back roads and border crossings of Central Asia, it was literally made on the run: Winterbottom and his skeleton crew followed their leads as they recreated the scary odyssey from Pakistan to London. Befitting its ragtag genesis, the movie feels pieced together and oddly truncated. (It runs at a brisk 88 minutes, belying the laborious trek it chronicles.) For all its insistent naturalism, the film bears evidence of Winterbottom's showmanship, which isn't necessarily a good thing. A nighttime fast-motion sequence that recalls Winterbottom's own Wonderland is lovely but out of place; a reverse tracking shot of a despondent Jamal registers as unnecessarily heavy-handed. Thankfully, Winterbottom exercises restraint for most of the movie, allowing the scenario's inherent drama to play out unembellished. Fueled by an invigorating sense of urgency, this imperfect film finally comes across as a touching gesture of humanism. It may falter occasionally, but In This World leaves an undeniably moving and memorable imprint.