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Film Of The Week Austerity bites yet again

Jellyfish is a powerful indictment of the state of an uncaring nation, says MARIA DUARTE

Jellyfish (15)
Directed by James Gardner

THIS powerful social-realist drama, driven by a stand-out performance by its 16-year-old lead actor, shines a much-needed light on the little known plight of Britain's young carers.

Set in Margate, the film centres on 15-year-old Sarah Taylor (Liv Hill) who takes care of her bipolar mother (Sinead Matthews) and her two younger siblings while going to school and working at the local arcade for an overbearing and abusive boss (a chilling Angus Barnett).

There, to make extra cash, she gives old men hand-jobs behind the rubbish bins.

When her drama teacher encourages her to channel a quick-tempered wit, which she deploys to fend off school bullies, into a stand-up comedy routine for the graduation showcase, she finally sees a light at the end of her tunnel.

Written and shot before the #MeToo movement, it’s a film which shows a young girl keeping silent about her fraught situation before finding her voice and the strength to speak out about her life and the abuse she has suffered.

To make matters even more desperate, there’s no help from the authorities for Sarah when her mother, unable to sign on due to her manic depression, has her benefits stopped. They have no electricity and face destitution because they are behind in the rent.

It is a remarkable and socially on-point debut feature by director and co-writer James Gardner, who drew inspiration from the work of Ken Loach, Francois Truffaut, and Margate native Tracy Emin’s short film Why I Didn’t Become a Dancer, and is powered by an emotionally raw and heartbreaking performance by newcomer Hill.

Sarah is the heart and soul of a film which ends with her delivering a stand-up routine inspired by Frankie Boyle. It is as painfully funny as it is heart-wrenching, which just about sums up the film itself.

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