Film Reviews

Flee (2021)

It’s not often that movies are actually filmed in and take place primarily underwater but if done right, it feels like the perfect angle for a horror movie.

Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s The Deep House gives you just enough time to take in one big breath before diving head first into the cold waters of a French man made lake for the rest of its runtime.

In this particular lake is an abandoned mansion that conjures a young haunted travel vlogging couple, Ben and Tina played by James Jagger and Camille Rowe, to monetarily explore its eerie presence.

Expecting to find only the large structure left standing on the lake floor, what they find inside is much more than expected and with absolutely no means of escape. This mansion is enormous and that’s clear when the couple descend upon it and swim around its exteriors but once inside the completely boarded up place, the many creepy rooms still mostly preserved in completely surrounding watery darkness makes you feel uncomfortably claustrophobic.

The dark and sinister history of the Montegnac Mansion is awakened by the arrival of its latest guests and so this aquatic exploration quickly turns into a horrifying race against time and the terrors that still lurk within this sunken purgatory. Sanity levels deplete even faster than the supplied oxygen tanks do and it fully illustrates wave after wave of dreadful and hopeless panic.

Bustillo and Maury have collaborated on a handful of horror movies since the early 2000s. From their first and still best work on the 2007 film Inside, each movie sadly seemed to get worse from there, especially their 2017 Leatherface film. This movie is easily their 2nd best movie so far. The Deep House is a rather straightforward horror movie but with technical design that is just exceptionally incomparable to any other horror movie out there.

Check it out on Hulu or Paramount Plus.

Flee is an incredibly touching movie. It’s got some of the most inventive animation documentary filmmaking with heartbreaking, crushingly real storytelling.

The style of animation is quite unique and unlike anything I’ve seen before, not necessarily groundbreaking but it perfectly fits the story being told. It’s an interesting way to incorporate some privacy into such intimate live audio interviews.

Flee is directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen but the story is told for the first time ever by Amin Nawabi, who opens up about his traumatic past of continuous fleeing, hiding and lying after being forced to leave his home country behind. At an already confusing and overwhelming age, Amin was completely robbed of a typical life and it’s affected him to this very day. When he was only a teenager, he and his family were forced to flee a war torn Afghanistan for a new life in Denmark. It’s clear more than ever that this isn’t merely a safe and easy relocation from point A to point B, as is often the case for many people seeking refuge. Flee’s focus is on how far too complex, unnecessarily drawn out and traumatically grueling asylum seeking can often be when faced with an unjust life or death scenario.

Amin’s older mother, one older brother and two older sisters first seek safety in Russia, only to find it overrun by corrupt authorities, who confine them to a tiny apartment, fearing for their lives on a daily basis waiting for the oldest brother to afford expensive trafficking to reunite in Denmark. But they are still tasked with getting themselves to a new home.

When given the opportunity to flee Russia, their overpaid journeys prove to be equally as life threatening as if they stayed in Afghanistan.

Amin and his family overpay for numerous failed trafficking attempts and they are slowly split up with each one. His sisters nearly die in shipping containers, Amin his mother and brother almost freeze on a long snowy hike and almost drown on a broken down overcrowded flooding boat in the middle the Baltic Sea before being gawked at by tourists on the ship that “rescues” those that are stranded, and Amin flies all alone to the wrong but possibly safer country with nothing but a new friends gold necklace and his fake passport. These make up the bulk of this family’s physical experiences but it just can’t account for the amount of lifelong trauma caused by seeking asylum in a broken terrible world.

Not only did Amin have to hide from the world as a refugee from Afghanistan but he was also forced to lie about his family’s existence on top of not being able to be who he really was as a young gay man. 

Flee is a gut wrenching recollection of losing everything you know and love, becoming homeless in all senses of the word, hiding because of the circumstances and as a result dealing with the trauma caused by it to this very day.

This is clear when we see present day Amin, now 36, a successful academic, happily engaged to his fiancé Kasper, they have a cute little cat and are currently looking for their new home, a concept that is still foreign to him. Amin was lucky enough to eventually be reunited with his family years later. But he still bears the burden of his past experiences and his rightfully apprehensive demeanor can be heard just by the sound of his soft yet hardened voice.

While Flee only tells Amin’s story, the poster is filled with people from all over the world. Most definitely pointing out the fact that this is a universal experience that has been forced upon so many others before and continues to happen today, tomorrow, the next day and every single day after that. Here in the US, we aren’t exposed nearly enough to such personal recounts of asylum seekers’ journeys because even with our own trials and tribulations, w still live lives of fortunate privilege compared to other countries. It’s far to easy to lose sight of worldly experiences. I think so many could benefit from listening and potentially lending out a helping hand to those that desperately need it in any way they can.

Jonas Poher Rasmussen and Amin Nawabi’s Flee easily finds a place in my top 20 of 2021.

10/10 for using Daft Punk’s Veridis Quo during that nightclub sequence.

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