Review: ‘Coming to England’

Sprightly adaptation of Floella Benjamin's 1994 autobiography, already something of a grade school classic in Great Britain for its child's-eye depiction of the immigrant experience, "Coming to England" seems more like a series of illustrations than a film, and is completely dependent on its narration.

Sprightly adaptation of Floella Benjamin’s 1994 autobiography, already something of a grade school classic in Great Britain for its child’s-eye depiction of the immigrant experience, “Coming to England” seems more like a series of illustrations than a film, and is completely dependent on its rich, wall-to-wall narration. The contrast between the splendid bright colors of Trinidad and the cold drabness of Britain certainly lends itself to storybook literalism, though, and thesping is charming. Pic’s story of displacement might earn an additional transatlantic cable stop, unless tale reads as too insularly English for U.S. tastes.

Benjamin, a well-known figure in children’s programming at the BBC, and director/lenser hubby Keith Taylor spin a yarn of Edenic splendor in the tropics, followed by a Dickensian interlude of exploitation at the hands of minders, an exciting sea voyage and finally a long period of adjustment to the racism and xenophobia of Britain in the early ’60s. Close-ups of Floella’s face, head topped with a big bow, usually snuggled next to her similarly-garbed sister as they explore the wonders of the West Indies or the terrors of the London Underground, blossom like flowers against the realistic backdrops.

Coming to England

Production

A Floella Benjamin production for BBC. Produced by Floella Benjamin. Directed by Keith Taylor. Screenplay, Floella Benjamin from her book

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Taylor; editor, Dan Mellow. Reviewed on cassette at African Diaspora Film Festival, New York, Dec. 15, 2003. Running time: 58 MIN.

With

Chloe Ketter-Thomas, Kamaria George, Davina Jackson, Sinead Edwards, Jessica Holder.
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