It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Tanya's fiance was going to meet them in England, but he is not at the airport, the rat. The Russian woman with the small boy and the uncertain English tries to deal with British immigration officials, who are not unkind but have seen this scenario countless times before. She talks about her fiance, she cites vague employment plans, and finally, in desperation, she requests political asylum.
Asylum is not really what she wants, but it's what she gets: asylum inside the British bureaucracy, which ships Tanya (Dina Korzun) and her son Artiom (Artiom Strelnikov) to a bleak and crumbling seaside resort named Dreamland. There she's given some food coupons and a barren apartment, and told the wait for a decision may take months, or years.
Tanya learns over the telephone that the fiance is never going to show. But in making the call she has also made a crucial connection; using an unfamiliar phone card at a run-down seaside arcade, she meets its owner, Alfie (Paddy Considine). He is an enigma, a seemingly nice man who perhaps has a subtle romantic agenda, or perhaps simply feels sorry for her and wants to help. Having been betrayed by her fiance, Tanya is not much interested in a new man. But Alfie doesn't push it.
The movie was directed for the BBC films division by Pawel Pawlikowski, who has a background in documentaries and does a good job of sketching in everyday life in the area, where the cold concrete and joblessness of a housing project has bred a generation of young outlaws. It's not clear whether the barbed wire is to keep people out, keep them in, or simply supply a concentration camp decor.