Flee ★★★★★

By Anna Berkowitz and Ben Helme 

In an astonishing 90 minutes, Danish director Jonas Poher Rasmussen crafts a beautiful film about his friend from his teenage years who he dubs “Amin” for the safety and privacy of him and his family. It’s been hailed as both a seminal presentation of displacement, and as a nuanced queer tale. While it deserves all the praise its received, it’s reductive to suggest it’s a run of the mill documentary, designed to educate about a topic. It doesn’t try to give you information about the refugee crisis. It just introduces you to Amin. Rarely, if ever, has an individual been so thoroughly or successfully fleshed-out in visual media. Through his story, it speaks of trafficking, the centrality of money, family, sexuality, European apathy, trauma, guilt, and corruption. One can draw extensive geo-politial implications from this individual tale, but the film doesn’t hammer them home. It is clever enough to focus exclusively on Amin, while prompting the viewer to consider how untold others have similarly suffered.

As it details the particularities of his experience and his character, it grows into an extraordinarily mature, emotionally complex film. It anticipates the viewer’s expectations, and subverts them. There are moments of joy in Amin’s story, notably in his childhood in Kabul and in his later relationship. This of course is due to Amin’s experience, but it’s commendable that the film shies away from neither the best nor the worst parts of his life. It’s neither exploitative of the plight of refugees nor of Amin’s personal story. Flee is concerned with an honest, natural presentation of a partially tragic story, not with creating a ‘tear-jerker’, and this truthfulness helps it to reach almost unparalleled levels of emotional impact. This maturity of presentation is particularly apparent in the breathtaking depiction of sexuality, which credibly develops from forbidden crushes to the embrace of love.

The art style is beautiful, but the animation is structural, not indulgent. It is never a gimmick; this story about the remembered recent past could not be told any other way. It also provides an ingenious way of telling an intensely personal story without revealing the identity of its subject. The animation is essential for the film, and the fact that it’s so beautiful is just a bonus. The imagery and style, which shifts ever so slightly depending on time and place, is evocative and compelling, always pulling the viewer ever more into the story. Most of all, the art style allows an impressive range of emotion to be portrayed, capturing Amin’s turmoil, especially as an adult, with feeling the pressure to succeed. The drawing style also changes to reflect the obfuscation of his various memories, at times becoming sketchy and unsure. This isn’t the only deviation from the usual style. Archival news footage is interwoven seamlessly, never allowing you to forget that everything you see on screen is shockingly contemporary and true.  

To top it all off, it perfectly lands the ending. We won’t forget the ending shot any time soon.

£3 tickets for under 25s at the BFI. Go! Get on it.

Hi, I’m Anna Berkowitz. I’m from Berkeley, California, and I’m a General Course student, in my third year, studying International Relations and Literature. In the limited time that I have outside of the wonderful world of academia, I enjoy running, reading, playing flute, and spending all my money on cinema tickets and books. I love writing about new films, and tv, especially anything in the science fiction or fantasy genre. If you’d like to get in touch about anything at all, my email is a.e.berkowitz@lse.ac.uk, and my Instagram is @anna.berkowitz

Hi, I’m Ben. I’m from Sandwich in Kent, and I’m in my second year, studying PPE. Aside from writing, I love hiking, reading and finding hidden places in London. I also love TV and film – if you have any suggestions for something I should watch, especially anything prettily shot or spooky, I’d love to hear. If you ever feel like discussing something I’ve written, please message me – my email’s b.m.helme@lse.ac.uk, or my Instagram’s benh3lme!

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