Aisha (2022). Aisha: Directed by Frank Berry. With Letitia Wright, Abdul Alshareef, Josh O'Connor, Andy Kellegher. While caught for years in Ireland's immigration system Aisha Osagie develops a close friendship with former prisoner Conor Healy. This friendship soon looks to be short lived as Aisha's future in Ireland comes under threat.
“Frank Berryu0026#39;s Aisha is the superbly moving record of a Nigerian refugeeu0026#39;s quiet fight for dignity in Irelandu0026#39;s inhumane Direct Provision system for asylum seekers. Thoroughly-researched but fictional, gently-paced but absorbing, Berryu0026#39;s affecting narrative is anchored by standout performances from Letitia Wright (The Silent Twins) and Josh Ou0026#39;Connor (Mothering Sunday). Haunted by forces they canu0026#39;t control, these two unlikely soulmates form an unexpectedly tender bond; by filmu0026#39;s end, they embody a tragic authenticity reminiscent of Italian neorealism. Even though Irish writer/director Berry is known for socially conscious work (2014u0026#39;s I Used to Live Here and 2017u0026#39;s Michael Inside), Aisha is far more than an u0026#39;importantu0026#39; film bolstered by real-world injustice. Here, Berry gives us a life-shattering experience that makes the greatest global issue of the moment feel achingly personal.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eIn her role as Aisha, the devastatingly resilient Wright is caught in a cycle fueled by bureaucratic impotence akin to Akira Kurosawau0026#39;s Ikiru or Ken Loachu0026#39;s I, Daniel Blake. After the murder of her father and brother, she flees Nigeria for Ireland, hoping to earn enough there to help her mother join her-but her new home offers no safe haven. As one of countless forcibly displaced immigrants, she is thrust into a byzantine immigration system where hopes are dashed and destitution hovers. Her only ally is the heartbreakingly egoless Conor, an Irish security guard with a traumatic past of his own-and an accent so effective it warrants subtitles-who understands her pain. As viewers, we care deeply for both of them, and yearn for their relief-but Aisha never strays from its narrative just to ease our discomfort.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThis film makes it hard to remember weu0026#39;re watching fiction. Tom Comerfordu0026#39;s understated cinematography achieves lived-in naturalism: claustrophobic office, bus and hotel interiors feel like prison; austere landscapes of emerald braes would dazzle if not for their overwhelming evocation of loneliness. Ironically, this dedication to immersion is so effective that Daragh Ou0026#39;Tooleu0026#39;s score feels sadly predictable. The music is bittersweet and remarkably varied (African drums stand out), but feels at odds with Berryu0026#39;s Kafkaesque realism; at its worst, the score tells us how to feel, an unwelcome reminder that weu0026#39;re watching a movie. Happily, Aishau0026#39;s most powerful moments come wisely devoid of music, relying on sheer performance to deliver emotional gut-punches.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eAnd what emotionally-charged performances they are. Wrightu0026#39;s perceptive silences speak volumes: grace and resolve in the face of daily microaggressions and lifelong trauma. Ou0026#39;Connoru0026#39;s vulnerability gives Wright room to shine as an actor, and Aisha room to unmask. When she finally lets go, itu0026#39;s a lightning bolt straight into the vieweru0026#39;s heart. This life journey doesnu0026#39;t want to be a u0026#39;movie,u0026#39; or even a u0026#39;film. By evading histrionics and melodrama, by leaving room for unvarnished honesty, Aisha occupies a world very close to our own fraught reality. Those who long for levity are missing the point: this is not meant to be a palatable experience, a flight of fancy; itu0026#39;s an intentionally suffocating, Sisyphean reality-check that barely scratches the surface of a terrible truth. Aisha joins a growing cadre of immigrant-driven post-neorealist cinema that demands empathy where it is not being offered in real life.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eReviewed on June 19th at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival – Spotlight Narrative section. 94 Mins.”