We live in a shrinking world whose boundaries are obscuring and becoming less and less clear each and every day. To this end, in the EU, it’s possible now to be an exchange student in your last year of High School. However, you don’t necessarily get to choose where you get to go in Europe. Thus we get the premise of Gorka. Yanis Charifi portrays the eponymous and central character of this film, and he does a subtle, understated, and wondrous job of it. Gorka is a French exchange student of Basque origin. Coming from the Pyrenees between France and Spain, he was sent to the midlands of England for his exchange student year.
“…finds himself visiting exchange mother Tanya’s father on his deathbed.”
Part of the bargain of living with a foreign family as an exchange student is experiencing the host family’s weekends. To this end, Gorka finds himself visiting exchange mother Tanya’s (Geraldine Somerville) father on his deathbed. A terrible man in life, he is now a husk of his former self, holding onto life just long enough to tell his daughter he loves her. After a mishap with tainted prawns, Gorka finds himself as the last person to be with Tanya’s father before he passes. The challenge facing Gorka in this film is how to convey her father’s last words to Tanya. He’s incapable of speaking English, as are most people who don’t grow up with it, and communicating this most sensitive idea to a woman in mourning is quite the challenge.
Gorka is a sweetly gentle balm of a film. It gladdened me greatly and restored some of my faith in humanity. This is a wondrous little fable, and I would advise everyone to watch it. It’s the right balance of humor and dour that is the essential flavor of British cinema. Joe Weiland wrote and directed a glorious little film here. He should be enabled to make more such films. This is his strength to create life-affirming films that are gently and subtly directed. That is such a delightful tidbit. Seek it out.
"…a wondrous little fable"