Film Review: Cargo

Gilles Coulier’s North Sea-set drama Cargo is a slow burner, but offers a satisfying pay off.

When their ageing father falls ill, it is up to three brothers to decide what happens next. Jean sees the debt of his father’s business, and worries about his own son. Francis is concerned with a private relationship. Then black sheep William returns…

Cargo is a story about three Flemish brothers and their elderly father. The film focuses on the life of a fishing family, within the constraints of the modern world. Director and co-writer Coulier takes his time in establishing the protagonists, allowing family dynamics to materialise as the story progresses.

Cargo deals with contemporary issues with the backdrop of an age-old industry. Each of the brothers takes a different strand. Francis’ strand is perhaps most interesting, as it crosses two tangents. His story explores the idea of homosexuality in a masculine community, and a romance with someone from an alien background. It is a shame that this strand is not given more weight.

The narrative unwinds gently, as a number of themes become apparent. There is a distinct jarring between their father’s career as a fisherman and the sons who are trying to stay afloat in a contemporary world. Each sibling’s strand becomes entwined as the film progresses.

There is a stoicism to the drama, which occasionally breaks. This is not a sentimental tale; the protagonists have to deal with very realistic issues. The relationship between Vico and Jean develops in a way that is endearing to watch.

Performances in Cargo are good, particularly Sam Louwyck as Jean. The handheld shots provide sufficient intimacy with the subjects, whilst the cinematography brings out the brooding palette. The final shot is a fitting end to the film.

Cargo shows Coulier’s flair for telling realistic stories. Although it is not that engaging initially, the film comes into its own in the second half.

Cargo is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2017.