Remember the 2020 ritual when people would stop to clap in united symbolic support of healthcare heroes during the pandemic? You may want to give Sarah (Killing Eve’s brilliant Jodie Comer) a standing ovation if you can bear to watch Help, a harrowing drama reliving the pandemic’s first wave as seen from within an ill-equipped and understaffed British nursing home.
The movie by Jack Thorne (His Dark Materials, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) clocks in at a little more than 90 minutes, and takes its time establishing how Sarah finds her calling as a care worker. She bonds with residents including Tony (Line of Duty’s Stephen Graham), who has early onset dementia and at 47 is one of the younger people at the Bright Sky care home who respond to her friendly compassion.
“Can’t keep him still for love nor money,” warns her boss (Ian Hart) when Tony wanders off one night — which becomes an issue when COVID-19 strikes, for which no one is prepared.
Slowly and ominously, the pandemic lockdown creates a mood of confusion and restlessness among the residents and a weary despair among the staff when masks and other necessary supplies are unavailable. In Help’s excruciating turning point, one of the darkest nights of the soul you’re bound to experience, Sarah is left alone on an overnight shift, unable to get emergency help for her low-priority patients as they suffer.
Suddenly the most essential of workers, her frustration and desperation powerfully enacted by Comer, Sarah enlists a confused Tony to be of service. In the aftermath, she risks her own future to keep her vulnerable friend safe, with heartbreaking results.
I know it may be a futile gesture in this COVID-weary world to recommend watching anything on this subject, and truly, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a film so gut-wrenchingly difficult to sit through. Or so necessary.