Last night I watched the much anticipated, feature length directorial debut from Samantha Morton, “The Unloved”. Set in Nottingham the film is a semi-autobiographical depiction of life in a care home. The protagonist is the quiet and “and risk” Lucy, who, rejected by her Mother and beaten by her Father is forced to become a ward of the state. Her gentle manner is at stark odds to the frantic, loud and volatile world of the care home and it’s troubled inhabitants.
Being a current resident of Nottingham it was distracting to see so many landmarks slipped into the film, but brilliant to see this city as it really is, not some Robin Hood tourist attraction. What makes The Unloved original is the uncompromised approach Morton has taken, there are long drawn out scenes with little action, movement or dialogue with just an ethereal soundtrack gently surrounding the images on screen – a technique which would have surely been cut if The Unloved was for a mass cinema audience. It seems to suggest that Lucy has her own private dream world, a place of tranquillity to escape to, an ability to shut out the world around her, even though the situation is bleak. Also, The Unloved only shows Lucy’s perspective, there’s no attempt to show the scenes from another’s point of view.
Lucy’s social worker is cold and distant, shuffling paper work, having temporarily been unavailable for Lucy due to “the office not paying mileage” she offers only adult ‘management speak’ answers to a confused and saddened Lucy. The care home workers are an equally troubled bunch, a set of poor role models for the vulnerable children housed there. Lucy often leaves the home to wander the streets of Nottingham for hours and there seems to be little in place to stop her.
‘Lauren’ Lucy’s older room mate is there to open the audience’s eye to why those mouthy kids you see in shopping centres are like they are. At 16, time is running out for Lauren and the care she will receive from the state, well known to the local police is seems as though her fate is sealed, especially when Lucy catches her abusing substances. Lauren’s lover is the care home manager, though their ‘romance’ seems one sided. Night time sexual encounters are not always enthusiastically met and Lucy has to hide from Lauren’s objections under the covers.
The Unloved culminates in the care home’s Christmas party, a drunken bonfire rave, with kids of all ages necking back the WKDs and revelling like a 90s Prodigy concert. The care home staff start a fight, revealing their own inadequacies and intolerances, one shouting “I don’t give a shit about this job” and accusing the care home manager of underage sex with Lauren. Lucy is left to witness this violent scene from the sidelines - suddenly her bleak home life with her parents seems a far more appealing option.
Best scene: Lucy seeking solace and comfort by wandering the streets of Nottingham - seeing a deer in the cemetery and the leaves dance in The Park Tunnel.