Jellyfish: Film Review

I didn’t know anything about Jellyfish except that it starred Liv Hill who I thought was brilliant in Three Girls. It’s no surprise then that she gave an impressive performance this time too.

She plays Sarah Taylor, a 15-year-old schoolgirl who has the weight of the world on her shoulders. Her mum Karen (Sinead Matthews) suffers from depression and is unable to work and is incapacitated for days on end and then bouncing off the walls the next. Sarah has to go to school, look after her two siblings and earn money in the evenings. She puts a brave face on things and pretends everything is OK but soon becomes desperate when it looks like their house might be repossessed.

Jellyfish is not an enjoyable film – in fact, it’s pretty relentlessly sad – but it’s one that makes you feel and appreciate the circumstances you’ve been born in. It places you right in Sarah’s shoes and you can’t help but feel sorry for her. No kid should have that much responsibility. You follow her story hoping that she will talk to someone and get help because she cannot go on like that.

Hill was incredible. She had to be so many things at once – mother, daughter, caregiver, school girl – and harness many emotions from strength to vulnerability to absolute desperation. I connected with her emotionally and my heart went out to her. I cried when she cried and felt so much anger towards her mum for being so useless. Matthews navigated the ups and downs of Karen’s condition well and Cyril Nri was a welcome edition as teacher Mr. Hale, who encourages Sarah to do stand-up comedy during the school’s showcase.

I also have a personal bias towards Jellyfish because I grew up near Margate, Kent, where the film is set. I recognised so many locations and it gave me a shot of nostalgia for my childhood. I used to go to the beach, Dreamland and the arcades on the seafront and it opens your eyes up to another side of life.

The film is pretty sad and depressing, but there is always a sense of hope. You will things to get better for Sarah and that’s all down to a wonderful script by James Gardner (who directs) and Simon Lord and performance by Hill.

In selected cinemas now

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