HIS HOUSE*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Evan
The film opens with Bol (Sope Dirisu), Rial (Wunmi Mosaku), and their daughter Nyagak (Malaika Wakoli-Abigaba) fleeing the violence of their home country. South Sudan. They make it to a small, overcrowded boat headed to Britain. The boat capsizes and all those aboard fall into the water…
The film jumps ahead to Bol and Rial in a detention center. Nyagak is not there. They are summoned by government bureaucrats who tell them they are in luck. An entire two-story rowhouse has been made available and assigned to them. They don’t even have to share it with any other refugees. The panel tells them that as their citizenship application is pending, the pair must not get any job and must reside in the assigned housing. They say that if Bol and Rial fit in with the local British and follow the rules, they will likely be granted citizenship.
Bol and Rial are brought to the small home. A social worker named Mark (Matt Smith) welcomes them in. The house is dilapidated, but all theirs (Mark says the home is bigger than his). Mark likes the new couple and reiterates that if they behave themselves and prove they are one of the “good ones,” they can make a new life in Britain. Bol is enthusiastic about the new start while Rial remains reserved. Rial makes a necklace out of the beads on one of her Nyagak’s dolls.
That night, Bol hears voices in the house and thumping inside the wall. He looks in an exposed part of the wall and thinks he sees a ghost. However, a bird flies out from the wall. Bol chalks up the phenomena to the bird.
The next morning, the couple surveys the dilapidated neighborhood. Bol’s neighbor glares at him when he goes to throw away their trash. Bol journeys out and gets a haircut. We learn that Bol isn’t even sure where in Britain they actually are. On his way home, some locals invite him to their church to watch a soccer game. Bol learns the British soccer chants and sings to root for the home team. When he returns home, Rial is unimpressed with Bol’s ventures.
That night, Bol again hears noises from behind the walls. He ventures downstairs and sees some wallpaper fall away to reveal a big hole. Inside the hole is seaweed. As he pulls on the strand of seaweed, a specter sneaks up behind him. At the end of the rope of seaweed is Nyagak’s doll. A corpse then jumps out of the wall to grab the doll. Bol closes his eyes and, when he opens them, finds the wall in its original state. He stays up all night scraping the wallpaper off all the walls in the house.
When Rial wakes up, she finds Bol gone and the ground littered with wallpaper. As she cleans up, she sees a vision of their escape from South Sudan. She leaves the house to go to a nearby clinic. She can’t find her way out of the complex (the streets seem to change to trap her). She is fearful of her neighbors and becomes more lost. She finally approaches some Black teenagers to ask for help. Although they help her, they also mock her accent and tell her to go back to Africa.
At the clinic, Rial receives a clean bill of health. She explains to the nurse that the raised tattoos on her and Bol’s body indicate what tribe they belong to. Because of the warfare, Rial got tattoos of both warring tribes so that neither would attack her. However, this also meant she never really belonged anywhere. When the nurse asks about Nyogak, Rial simply says they lost her on the journey to Britain.
Rial buys some groceries and returns home. She hears a voice whisper “come” emanate from within the walls. She watches as a peach obeys the voice’s command, rolling across the floor and into the hole in the wall. Many voices then begin speaking to her.
When Bol returns home, he apologizes for his absence. He finds Rial has made a traditional meal and set it out on a rug (as they used to eat in Africa). Bol forces them to use silverware rather than using their hands (their traditional way of eating) and also says they must start eating at the table so that they can fit in. He insists on speaking in English. Rial tells him a folktale of a man who so desperately wanted a house, he stole from others in order to get it. As a result, the man and his house were cursed and eventually destroyed. She then tells Bol that she has seen the ghosts in their home. Bol denies seeing the ghosts. Rial calls him a liar and says that they must repay their debt to break the curse.
That night, Bol again hears voices. He begins carving open the walls. As he does, he hears African music and voices. He sees many ghosts throughout the house. Bol is then attacked by Nyagak, wearing a tribal mask. He flees his house. When he returns, he insists that they are cursed through one of the objects from their home country. Bol collects all of the clothes and goods they brought from Africa and lights them on fire. He sees the necklace Rial made out of Nyagak’s beads and rips it off her neck. She begs him not to destroy her links to her home. He tosses the necklace into the fire anyway.
Bol goes to the mall (where he is shadowed the whole time by mall security) and buys Western-style clothes. When he returns home, he repairs all the wiring in the house (wounding his hand in the process). The walls are now full of gaping holes. When he finishes, he finds Rial talking to an unseen presence. She is discussing returning home to South Sudan. Bol angrily sets the table for dinner and tells Rial she must integrate into the British community. She responds that the ghosts have promised that if she complies with their wishes they will reunite her with Nyagak…. and that she should be afraid of Bol.
Bol angrily eats his dinner (with silverware) when he realizes he has been transported inside a vision. He is alone at sea. Watery corpses rise from the water and approach him. The vision ends, but he is still attacked by the ghosts. They disappear whenever he turns on the lights and he struggles to light up his entire house. The ghosts scream out they can’t breathe, and Nyagak yells that she can’t swim. Once all the lights are on, Bol sees the ghosts crawling inside the walls. He smashes more holes in the walls and screams at them to leave.
Bol visits Mark and asks for new housing. Mark is skeptical of the request given that their home is bigger than his. Noting Bol’s wounded hand and disheveled appearance, he says they will need to conduct an investigation. They go to Bol’s house and see all the holes. Bol claims it is the result of vermin. Because Mark believes in Bol, he says he is willing to issue only a warning so long as things are straightened out. Rial then walks out of the bedroom dressed in the Sudanese clothing and necklace that Bol had burned. She tells Mark that the apartment has been destroyed because they are being haunted by ghosts and a witch. Mark says he is going to report the couple to his supervisors (with the implication being they will be sent back to South Sudan). When Mark leaves, Bol and Rial fight with each other over where they belong. When he goes out for air, Bol’s neighbor tells him he should just leave the home as they will be sent back to Africa no matter what.
Bol refuses to abandon his new home and knocks all of the door and window handles off so that he and Rial can’t leave. He then lights a candle and asks the ghosts to talk with him. He is approached by a ghost/witch calling itself the butcher (Javier Botet). The witch says that it will reunite Nyogak with Rial, so long as Bol sacrifices himself to repay his debts. Bol refuses and realizes that the witch cannot directly harm him. Although the witch can’t physically harm Bol, the witch tortures him with visions of a ghostly Nyagak dead at sea.
Meanwhile, Rial reattaches a window handle and crawls out of the home. She ends up in a vision that she is back in South Sudan. She greets all of her friends in a tearful reunion. However, she is then approached by the witch. The witch forces Rial to remember the truth of her past (which she had repressed).
We see that Rial and Bol survived an attack by one of the warring tribes that left most of their friends and family dead. They, along with other refugees, flee to a bus to be taken out of the warzone. Rial and Bol are denied entry onto the bus as the workers are prioritizing the evacuation of families with children. Rial and Bol…. do not have any children. Bol sees Nyagak in the crowd and grabs her, claiming that Nyagak is their child. They are let on the bus just before it departs. Nyagak’s real mother sees Nyagak on the bus and pursues it, screaming out for her daughter. The bus does not stop, and the mother is left behind. Rial swears to protect their new “daughter.” The trio is eventually placed on a boat to Britain. However, it capsizes and everyone begins drowning. A rescue raft shows up. Bol is one of the few people who can swim. He grabs Rial and swims with her to the rescuers. Nyagak, and many others, drown. The ghosts are of all the people, including Nyagak, that died so that Rial and Bol could live. The witch explains that if Rial delivers Bol to him, he will reunite Rial with Nyagak.
Rial re-enters the apartment where Bol waits for her. She goes to grab the kitchen knife, but can’t bring herself to kill Bol. However, Bol grabs the knife and wounds himself. He is ready to sacrifice himself to atone for what he did and to bring Nyagak back. Bol admits all his wrongdoings. As Rial leaves the room, the floor breaks open and the witch crawls out from the ground. The witch begins consuming Bol. As Bol is being consumed, Nyagak appears and takes Rial’s hand.
As Rial hears Bol dying, she realizes that her home is with him. She tells her deceased friends and Nyagak that she must “return home.” Rial then grabs the knife and slays the witch. Bol is saved.
Jumping ahead in time, Mark and his supervisors arrive for another inspection. They find all the holes in the wall patched and the home nicely (though sparsely) decorated. Though the inspectors are annoyed, they will seemingly allow Rial and Bol to stay. Out of his colleagues’ earshot, Mark asks Rial what happened. Rial says she killed the witch. As for the ghosts, she says they are still with them, and always will be as the ghosts are part of who they are. But the two affirm they will live with the ghosts while making a new life together. The film ends with Bol and Rial peacefully sitting with the ghosts of their past.