To say the European fishing industry had been decimated over the past few decades, is a huge understatement. Fisherman, whose families have been eking-out a living from the sea for decades, have been almost completely wiped out by large industrial operations. However, the sea isn’t simply a way of making money for many, it’s more of a calling. Gilles Coulier’s film Cargo concentrates on one such family. Three brothers riven apart by their choices, whilst trying to live-up to their father’s legacy.
After falling from his fishing vessel during a storm right in front of his eldest son Jean (Sam Louwyck), Leon Broucke (Roland Van Campenhout) falls into a deep coma. Jean is left to deal with a failing business and a huge debt to pay. His younger brothers are around, but provide little help. Francis (Wim Willaert) is struggling to come to terms with his covert homosexuality, torn between helping his family and eloping with his secret lover. William (Sebastien Dewaele), who left home to escape the family business but only found unhappiness and a life of crime, returns to try and get his life back on track.
Cargo is a gripping drama about family ties, responsibility and the difficulties of those whose livelihoods have been all but washed away. As the pressure increases on the brothers, old recriminations come to the surface; threatening to tear the family apart. The acting from Louwyck, Willaert and Dewaele is top draw and Coulier manages to deftly walk the fine line between an emotive narrative and melodrama. There’s a traditional masculinity at play, but much is told through taciturn stony faces. Cargo is a gritty drama which quietly paints a bigger picture.