Movie Review: HELP – Farmville

By Lauren Bradshaw

Special for the Farmville Herald

First in the UK and finally in the US via Acorn TV, HELP is the most heartbreaking and important film I’ve seen about the COVID pandemic. It’s the contagion of this generation, but actually rooted in the real-life experiences of understaffed and overworked patients and attendants suffering the effects of COVID-19 in care homes across the UK. But this story is not localized to the UK; these same issues have also surrounded American nursing homes. And with the recent spike in COVID cases and hospitalizations, it made the movie even more relatable and tragic.

Twenty-something Sarah Jodie Comer struggles to find a job in her hometown of Liverpool. After a rather disastrous interview, she is shocked to receive a job offer at a local nursing home, which takes in patients ranging from the elderly to those with cognitive impairments like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Sarah soon realizes that this is her calling; she’s a natural caregiver and isn’t afraid to give her bosses an attitude if it means standing up for her patients’ well-being. Tony, Stephen Graham, who suffers from an early onset of Alzheimer’s disease, is one of those patients to whom Sarah is very dear, almost like a brother.

Being a caregiver in a facility like this is hard enough, but sadly it doesn’t take long before COVID adds to the vulnerable environment. Sarah and her colleagues are not equipped for a pandemic. Without cleaning materials or properly stored PPE, they are unable to stop the spread of the virus between their susceptible patients, nor to properly protect themselves. To make matters worse, due to their lack of workers, Sarah finds herself managing the facility alone when everything begins to fall apart.

Jodie Comer is the best actress of her generation and one of the best actors working today. And needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed with Comer’s effortless, multi-layered performance in the face of intense subject matter. Comer’s innate charisma and empathy for all helpless patients immediately makes you identify with and root for his character to succeed, which is the film’s most critical element. When she was anxious, I was anxious. When she cried, I cried. And did I mention that many of the film’s most tense and emotional scenes were one long take! It’s like they’ve upped the difficulty from 10 to 100. It’s one of Comer’s most emotional and heartbreaking performances to date…and that’s saying a lot.

The film’s other strong point is Comer’s sibling chemistry with Graham. Both characters bring out the best in each other, with Sarah helping Tony calm down after outbursts of frustration and Tony stepping in to help Sarah when she needed it. Without giving anything away, by the end of the movie I was so invested in their relationship and the two turned out well, I was a wreck.

And a lot has to be said for the phenomenal supporting actors, too, who really round out the incredible ensemble and give the nursing home patients character arcs of their own. They are never nameless, faceless patients who blend into the walls of the nursing home. Instead, they are vibrant, memorable people, each with their own stories that will haunt you as things start to get worse with COVID.

I’m not going to lie and say that HELP is a fun and airy watch, but it’s hugely revealing and important, challenging you to see the world outside of your bubble. I’ve heard about COVID ravaging nursing homes and assisted living facilities on the news, but seeing it dramatized in this way really kicked in. In just 90 minutes I fell in love with every patient in the facility and I think this film is a beautiful tribute to all the victims of COVID and the men and women who sacrificed everything, including their lives, to try to to help their patients and neighbors.

HELP is streaming on the Acorn TV app now.

My opinion: A

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