Nothing beats a night at the movies. I didn’t read any reviews or watch any chat show chats about the film before I went as I like to make up my own mind. Apparently there was lots of interest and discussions about this film which some class as a social documentary.
“Ken Loach crafts a “Cathy Come Home “for the 21st century that resonates long after you leave the cinema.” Extract from the review of Mark Kermode, The Guardian this review includes interesting video clips.
I am from a working class background having been raised in a council estate in the 1950s . Combine that with a career in childcare, social housing and the benefits system and you will recognise that I am no stranger to poverty and the many people who fall victim to the poverty trap. Having raised my own daughters as a single parent post divorce I know how hard it is to manage financially, even when you are in employment.
I think this may well be why I did not find the film as hard hitting as some of the many critics did. Their lives may have been further removed from people in crisis than mine and I am sure there are many others whose lives are lived closer to the edge of this reality of bureaucracy and the current UK government’s drive to dehumanise its citizens.
Ken Roach is excellent at getting his point across and I am not questioning that but, for me, it was all a bit too cliched and clean cut. Whilst it showed various aspects of what can happen when you find yourself out of work, re-located from familiar places and faces, It all rang a bit contrived for me. I recognised some of the incidents highlighted in the film from past news reports; the woman eating beans straight from the tin at the food bank, the man dying from a heart attack before he gets to discuss his appeal against the benefits sanctions for example.
Apart from the two children showing signs of emotional heartache at times (the wee boy not communicating and the wee girl being bullied at school and having no shoes to wear) they too looked too glossy for me. I appreciate they are young, probably actors, but there faces didn’t express the anger or innocence I have seen in the faces of children living in poverty in this country, and in a way I am glad that these two youngsters don’t have the life experience to draw on such emotions.
On the way to the cinema I passed several people on the street begging in the city centre. How ironic that on the way out I never saw any of the head shaking cinema goers stop to speak to these people never mind donate. I am no fool and I am well aware of the street gangs and organised criminals who often set up “beggars” as a ploy to feed their own habits or power trips however, I honestly think it is all in the eyes. That look of sheer humiliation, desperation and despair that no person in this should have.
The increase in mental illness and decrease in benefits for those in most need are shameful.
I applaud Ken Roache for bringing this issue to the attention of the public and hope that politicians who have the benefits systems policies in their remit pay close attention to the message portrayed.
This film is not fictitious. It represents real people, vulnerable people who are being treated as second class citizens at the most vulnerable points in their lives.