Friday, 17 September 2021

"Help" *****

This morning I am still haunted by the face and performance of actress Jodie Comer in last night's "Help" on Channel 4. I was not at all surprised to find it got a ***** review in this morning's paper, where the reviewer said that some government ministers should be forced to watch some of the scenes in this astonishing drama. Jodie Comer played a young assistant in a care home in Liverpool, where she finds an unexpected connection with the residents. It is set in the early months of last year. starting pre-pandemic but then showing us what happened across Britain in our care homes as Covid struck from March onwards.

One night she finds herself on duty alone, with several residents already having died. She discovers another victim and wants to turn him on his front but can't manage it.  I could hardly watch as she wanders around the darkened and silent  home, desperately trying to get help over the phone but "noone's coming". So she enlists the help of Tony, a resident played by the wonderful Stephen Graham, suffering from early onset dementia.  A fantastic script and excellent acting meant that it was easy to forget that we were in a TV drama and not a documentary.  

Admittedly it perhaps went off the boil a little in the last part. When the manager returns from sickness himself he puts Tony on strong medication, knocking him out, so Jodie Comer decides to spring Tony and takes him to a caravan on the coast. I agree with the reviewer who asks whether we can imagine this happening. It reminded me, and the reviewer, of the excellent "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". At the end we were reminded of some statistics, notably that between March and June 2020 40% of deaths were in care homes. At breakfast today Fr Andy reminded me that one of our parishioners is a resident in a home where there is only one assistant on duty at night.

A lot of the time I am dealing with "serious stuff" in my work and ministry. So in the evening I am often glad to chill with my music or something light on the telly. But every so often something serious comes along that begs to be watched. I am so glad that I watched "Help" with its 5 stars. Anyone who doubts whether TV can produce programmes that are not only great works in themselves, but social realism polemics at the same time - you need to see "Help".

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