This one-off drama centres around Sarah Byrne (Jodie Comer – Talking Heads: Her Big Chance), who’s gone for an interview at Bright Sky Care Homes. Her interview with manager Steve (Ian Hart – Escape from Pretoria) doesn’t quite go to plan, but I can say that obviously, she does get the job, otherwise it would be a very short film. Also, it’s perhaps telling that she was the only applicant.
Leading the rest of the cast is Stephen Graham (Time) as Tony – with whom Sarah forms an early bond, who’s 47, has young onset Alzheimers, and moved in after his mother died – something he sadly often doesn’t remember. There’s also well-known faces in much smaller roles including Lesley Sharp, Cathy Tyson, Angela Griffin, and Sue Johnston (The Cure) as one of the residents, Gloria.
I couldn’t begin to do a job like this, but for Sarah, she starts on a night shift, and the months roll by until we get to Christmas, and then to March 2020. A quick point that the trailer makes it look like the drama begins in March 2020 with the interview. No dates are shown onscreen during the drama – at least in the preview I saw – but all throughout that initial time, there’s no mention of the virus. Perhaps it would’ve been better if dates HAD been put onscreen.
Help is very well acted, but it does take quite some time before it gets to the meat of the drama when we get to that fateful month, and the care home are about to take a load patients straight from hospitals, at a time when the Tories dumped known COVID-positive patients in care homes, because… y/know, Tories.
Should Sarah, therefore, quit her job rather than potentially bring COVID19 into the house? Welll, that would make for a very short drama for her, but it’s what some members of her family are after.
As events go on, Sarah sees the worst happen before her eyes, and it all looks like some dystopian drama in the near-future as the staff have to fashion PPE out of black bin bags, but it happened. And it’s still happening, making this very difficult to watch, but it is essential viewing, in the main.
It is also claustrophobic to watch, with the best performances coming from Comer and Graham – and with good support from Ian Hart, but it does rather get a bit ridiculous in the final act, as events take a turn that I wouldn’t have expected in a zillion years. Obviously, I can’t say what happens, but after you see it, let me know what you think in the comments below.
So, overall, Help is slow, then great, then… huh?
Maybe what happens mirrors a real-life situation, but if it did, it’s not anything I read about or saw on the news.
Director: Marc Munden
Producer: Jenny Frayn
Writer: Jack Thorne
Music: Jim Williams, Anna Meredith
Sarah: Jodie Comer
Tony: Stephen Graham
Steve: Ian Hart
Gaynor: Lesley Sharp
Bob: Andrew Schofield
Robbie: Ellis Howard
Polly: Cathy Tyson
Tori: Angela Griffin
Kenny: Steve Garti
Tim: Arthur Hughes
Gloria: Sue Johnston
Hercules: David Hayman
Graham: Mike Noble
June: Alicya Eyo
Velma: Flo Wilson
Joan: Jackie Knowles
Farmer Joe: Ian Ralph
Stan: Ozzie Yue
Paramedic: Reid Anderson
999 Operator: Charlie De’Ath
Police Officers: John McGrellis, Samantha Robinson
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.