We have received an overwhelming amount of praise from social and health care professionals and we are sharing a selection below by way of highlighting how Sarah’s circumstances are all too real for many vulnerable young people.
Stephen Vickers, Director Adults & Communities at Herefordshire Council
“Speaking as a professional who has worked in social care for over 20 years including in services supporting families and individuals living with mental ill health, I can honestly say that Jellyfish is as true a reflection as I have ever seen on screen, of the issues and importantly the humanity and resilience of some living on the edge of care. Real life, hard hitting, thought provoking, moving and brilliantly acted. A difficult subject to discuss, yet alone portray accurately and sensitively which this film certainly does. A highly recommended watch for all current and future social care staff.”
The Carers Trust
“If you want to understand just how hard life as a young carer can be, watch Jellyfish – hard hitting and realistic film about young carers in the UK.”
Sheffield Young Carers
“Watch Jellyfish to see a hard hitting but realistic portrayal of the love, the tears, the struggles and the strength.”
Dr Risthardh Hare (DSW MSW MA BA)
“The film was a pleasant surprise because I wasn’t really looking forward to this film. I had spent the day trying to come up with ideas to tackle the impact of poverty without mentioning poverty. I was excepting the usual gritty British kitchen sink film, 90 mins setting out the tragedy of the Working class affliction before an ending full of despair or hidden talent that saves our heroine from the gutter and the desperation of their poverty-stricken lives.
What was interesting for me was that these concerns dissipated within the first few minutes. At this time, I couldn’t work out why but on reflection I think it has a lot to do with the cinematography and the choice of music. Clearly, the film was made by someone who knows the area and these types of situations. It was heartening to see a piece that wasn't created by a social class tourist who was making a political point or a social commentary educating their peers (Owen Jones etc) - this was simply a story about a family who lived in Margate.
Anyway, from a Social work perspective, there is evidence of understanding about family behaviours. What we know from research and lived experience is that children who are abused, and this was an abused child well before the rape, will find something to hide their anger behind and this cloak can be the application of humour. However, the humour is driven by anger and fear and is also used as a weapon. This came across really well in the film, with painful events, which invoke fear /anger, creating a new joke. The acting was excellent across the board from the main characters to the bit parts.
I thought the ending was superb and made the film feel more realistic and less desperate. The classic narrative would have seen the kid go on stage and be really funny and therefore have a way out. From a professional point of view, I would be really concerned about the message being conveyed. All these evil things happen, but they have given her great material, so it’s all ok? I saw the humour as her gaining her voice which became the mechanism for disclosure. These children don't want a way out - they love their families, but they just want to the bad stuff to stop. So the ending we had here, the child finding her voice and disclosing the abuse she had suffered, was perfect.
The dynamics between the family were spot on. The fear of the SW with the previous episode of care reinforcing that fear shows an understanding of this life. I thought there was a real love for Margate and loved the in-jokes "Shoreditch by the sea". It didn't patronise me, which is novel - I could apply my learning on behaviours, actions etc and come to my own conclusions.”
Susan Coffer – Eden Carers
“James Gardner’s insightful film into the life of ‘Sarah’, a young carer struggling with her domestic situation, school pressures and teenage angst, convincingly portrays the harsh realities facing many young carers today. Often invisible to those around them, young carers take on huge responsibilities of the kind not normal for their tender ages. Jellyfish, while often difficult to watch, skilfully condenses many of the issues that arise from caring for a family member and the physical, emotional and psychological effects it can have on the young carer.
The film has clearly been very well researched, and Liv Hill who plays the central character of ’Sarah’ is beautifully observed. The relentless grimness of her existence is peppered with humour and hope as she discovers her talent for stand-up comedy, by drawing on her situation for material.
Our hope at Eden Carers is that Jellyfish will help raise the profile of young carers nationally and, as a result, will see more of them being supported by charities like ours.”
Specialist Mental Health Occupational Therapist, Bristol
“Thanks so much for inviting me to watch the movie. It was so harrowing and such a true description of what happens. It gave me that same empty feeling when I read some of the patient’s referral forms and history. It’s such an important story that needs to be shared with everyone and the filmmakers did so well in telling it.”
“We thought Jellyfish was absolutely fantastic. The acting was spot on too. Really important film showing what it’s like for thousands of families growing up in England. Especially with the current situation with the roll out of Universal Credit. We will be sure to recommend others to go and see it.”
Wendy Lloyd for The Psychologist
“Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake invigorated public debate about austerity and welfare cuts, with the film still referenced in Parliament as a cautionary tale for Universal Credit. Here, director and co-writer James Gardner’s Jellyfish considers the welfare equation with the added crippling issue of mental health, in a film that might arguably be considered a companion piece to Loach’s BAFTA award winner.
Liv Hill delivers a visceral performance as 15-year-old Sarah, who we meet ferrying her young twin siblings to school by bike, then persuading them to make do with a cold, uncooked, packet noodle dinner when the electricity runs out. There appears to be no adult presence at home, and Sarah seems capable if beleaguered. However, navigating her peers and school-day soon reveals a young woman at breaking point; be it rebuffing her inevitable bullies, or talking back to her understanding yet conflicted drama teacher, played Cyril Nri.
Thus Gardner cleverly establishes Sarah’s character before we’re finally introduced to mother Karen. Mum has bipolar disorder, and Sinead Matthews’ committed performance encapsulates the highs, lows, insecurity and unpredictability associated with the condition. Importantly, Karen’s behaviour and the family’s history fleshes out not only her identity as a struggling single mum unwittingly emotionally blackmailing her daughter, but also Sarah’s naïve rationale for keeping the family together, despite the impossible toll on her and her siblings.
Jellyfish provides a bitter illustration of Judith Butler’s ‘Precarious Life', as expounded upon so powerfully in her 2004 book of the same name: Sarah’s carer responsibilities alongside school and a part time job are unsustainable, whilst Karen is utterly incapable of adhering to welfare system requirements with such chronic mental health. Paying the rent and keeping the lights on is therefore a daily struggle. Additionally, Sarah’s increasingly desperate efforts to make ends meet make her dangerously vulnerable to the men who pay her: a minor, for illicit sexual favours. Power relations inevitably loom large here, with Sarah’s seedy boss also willing to perceive her vulnerability as an opportunity to exert his power, ultimately via physical violence.
This ‘precariousness’ is also encapsulated in the film’s location of Margate, a battleground of rising inequality. When Sarah encounters a posturing estate agent, who boasts obliviously of vast profits from his property development for the 'DFL' (Down From London) types who are gentrifying parts of the town, she has a seemingly justifiable opportunity to gain at least some financial redress for the shitty hand she’s been dealt. But there’s little to celebrate as we anxiously witness Sarah embarking on yet another precarious mission purely because she’s run out of options.
The one option Sarah does have comes courtesy of stand-up comedy. With everything else going on it could have been a stretch making this storyline coherent, but Gardner (and co-writer Simon Lord) smoothly incorporate Sarah’s journey to her eventual, and tensely show stopping, performance in a way that highlights the salvation and power of a personal passion. The film is a tough one, but perhaps not bleak: ultimately you feel hopeful about Sarah’s courage and power within. The message, however, is clear: families like Sarah’s are society’s dirty secret, and they’re being failed by the system.
Jellyfish is a timely and important social commentary with terrific performances. If it can garner even a fraction of the attention of I, Daniel Blake perhaps it could prompt a better understanding of the horrific ramifications of poor mental health on struggling families in poverty, and provide another much needed counter to those hysterical polarising headlines.”