When you watch ‘Tori And Lokita,’ any faith that the Dardenne brothers and their heartrending grasp on grounded human tragedy might’ve lost in recent years floods back with the urgency of a breached dam. What Joely Mbundu and Pablo Schils bring to this traumatizing tale is almost a naive, impromptu authenticity that not only adds to the near-perfect screenplay but also makes ‘Tori And Lokita’ what it turns out to be—an experience that would be a challenge to shake off. Transcending the expectations of shared DNA, two African immigrants manifest a spiritual yet distressingly dire connection as they pose to be siblings in the apathetic cradle of a Belgian city. Here’s how their tragic existence plays out despite their best efforts:
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘Tori And Lokita’ Film?
Lokita’s acute anxiety is palpable the second you lay eyes on her fumbling state as she tries to pass the test to be treated like a human being. You know she’s failed before. Just like you know the color of her skin has time and again stood in the way of her being approved as a working citizen of a country that loathes the likes of her. But at least she has little Tori by her side—a fabricated brother who’s shown her more love and kindness than she’s probably ever received from her mother and her siblings back home. Lokita and Tori’s mutually-comforting dynamic is the flame of hope that illuminates the cruel rooms and alleys they rush through, with each breath threatening to be their last. From Betim’s infernal kitchen, which is a front for his drug peddling business, to the cars into which they’re ruthlessly dragged in to appease the immigrant smugglers who brought them into the country, Tori and Lokita endure things that no one deserves to be put through. With lullabies to soothe the wounded hearts and each other’s hands to desperately hold on to in a state of unfathomable torment, young Lokita and almost-adolescent Tori bide their time until they’re free.
What Are Tori And Lokita’s Lives Made Of?
Intentional or not, Tori hastily crossing the road and narrowly evading being crushed by callous cars every single night he peddles for Betim is a jarring metaphor for just how close death really is for someone like him. For his age, it’s almost alarming how his emotional maturity allows him to be there for Lokita every time new thorns are laid down on their paths. And Lokita reciprocates with all her heart and the might of her spirit, which Betim fails to strangle with all the abusive and tremendously inappropriate favors he forces out of her. It’s the kind of pain that even her mother back in Cameroon can’t comprehend as she chooses to shroud her eyes against everything Lokita has to do just to see another day. And to have the money snatched from her—the money she’d had to sell chunks of her soul for and wanted to support her family with—it’s no surprise that Lokita often finds herself in the clutches of panic attacks. Standing guard against all harm with as much courage as his little frame can muster is Tori. Yet, his wide-eyed frustrations get the better of him as he almost breaks down, begging the immigration interviewers to grant his sister the papers she needs to train as a household helper.
Where Does Betim Take Lokita, And Why?
It often comes as a humbling eye-opener just how hopelessly Tori, Lokita, and countless other colored immigrants like them lose the privilege to even utter a word of contempt against the kind of hell they live in. In no world, however crestfallen, should a minor be biking through the cold streets to collect money he’d only get to keep a minuscule portion of, wearing a pouch full of drugs he should be nowhere near. And when no amount of glossing over the answers that could sway the immigration office helps Lokita get even close to receiving her papers, the only option she’s left with is being further exploited by the likes of Betim. So in exchange for false papers, Lokita receives a three-month sentence in the lifeless, airless prison where Betim and Luckas grow their marijuana. If only she wasn’t kept from her only source of hope, her little brother Tori, someone as morosely undemanding and malleable as Lokita would have kept mum, watered the plants, and sustained herself on the frozen food.
‘Tori And Lokita’ Movie Ending Explained: What Finally Happens To Them?
Despite often being a thriller of sorts, the feeling that ‘Tori And Lokita’ evokes with the utmost sincerity is one of acute fear. The fear of helplessly watching two victims being chased by the rabid beast of dread in a haunted world that is sadly far from dystopian. The world that Tori and Lokita are unfortunately born into takes the most from those who already have nothing to their names. All Tori could look forward to was a life of bare-minimum comfort, which would be more than compensated for with her sister’s love. And everything Lokita was working toward was a stable ground that would allow her the peace of mind that she would need in order to really be there for Tori.
Throughout the disquietingly grim narrative of the film, Tori has more often been the more emotionally stable and reliable one. But living without Lokita is something that is too much to bear for the kid, who’s sadly had to grow up before his time. So he puts his resourceful mind to use, this time to locate the place where the demonic drug dealer has hidden his sister. Granted, it would’ve been a pragmatically smarter move for the two to endure the pain of being apart for the time being, but even survival without each other, without the love that’s been seeing them through on their wretched journey, is evidently unbearable for them both. And so they unite, and you don’t know whether you’re to feel a suffocating sense of dread or relief, considering how the meeting goes.
It’s undeniably comforting that Lokita has Tori’s little arms to hold her when Betim takes his leave after remorselessly exploiting the poor girl’s vulnerability even further. But the fact that, at his age, Tori has seen far more than his fair share to know what went on as he was hiding under the bed boldly underlines the prevalent theme of loss. Tori’s unpardonable loss of innocence is his loyal companion as he rides through the city to sell the stolen stash of drugs just so that he can send money to Lokita’s family. All they’ve known ever since they set foot in the city is an absolute lack of kindness and empathy. The severe scarcity of compassion is what most people they run into are afflicted with. For some, like Betim, the symptoms of the disease are more apparent. But even the smugglers, who, despite being completely aware of Lokita’s predicament, drain her of her meager funds, are no better.
Just how alone and in danger of being harmed people like Tori and Lokita are in a country that actively tries to do its worst for them is loudly announced when a man asks Tori for money in exchange for helping the little kid send money to Lokita’s family. But what follows the acknowledgment of impending danger lurking at every turn is a stoic immunity to fear. If they’ve made it this far, maybe they’ll go the rest of the way, no matter the hurdle. But a world this inherently brutal doesn’t care about Tori and Lokita’s hopes and dreams.
All it takes are two bullets put through Lokita’s head for it all to come to a harrowing halt. It’s practically a test of your hope against the most likely outcome of the situation when Tori and Lokita are caught by the people to whom their lives hold far less value than the drugs. You know it would take divine intervention for the two to make it out in one piece and hitchhike their way back to the main city, and yet when the shots are fired, you feel the jolt of your heart-shattering. No one looks out for the Toris and Lokitas. And loneliness is all that embraces Tori as he screams into the void, standing before Lokita, who might as well be less alarming than roadkill for the cars passing by. With no one to look out for him anymore, I doubt Tori would go far in life if he even gets to have one. The best of intentions and the most remarkable presence of mind are of little use when kids like Tori are faced with a whole wide world that’s out to get them.