Review: Channel 4's care home drama Help will leave you shaking with rage and full of admiration for Jodie Comer's astonishing performance

It’s been easy to forget the Covid-19 pandemic the past few months, after lockdown restrictions were lifted, nightclubs, theatres and sporting events began to attract the crowds and masks became an increasingly rare sight.

Friday, 17th September 2021, 5:00 pm

But Help (Channel 4, Thurs, 9pm) was a brutal reminder of the appalling toll of coronavirus and the struggles the country still has in coping with the disease.

Set in a private Liverpool care home, Help uses the rising horror of a zombie movie – the idea that something awful, incomprehensible, terrifying is approaching and panic sets in. The care home is isolated, locked in, waiting for help but you know none will come.

“Did you know it was going to be like this?” care home assistant Sarah (Jodie Comer) asks manager Steve (Ian Hart). “I followed all the advice, did more,” he tells her. “No one told us. No one.”

Jodie Comer gave a tour de force performance as care home assistant Sarah in the Channel 4 drama Help

It’s got an amazing cast, a who’s who of Scouse acting, from Hart to Stephen Graham, Cathy Tyson, Sue Johnston and Andrew ‘Scully’ Schofield, all terrific.

But this is centred around Comer’s astonishing performance. In one agonising scene, she copes with a night shift on her own, a resident dying from Covid in front of her eyes, a recorded message from the 111 NHS helpline the constant soundtrack.

Jack Thorne’s script is full of humanity and warmth, and the care homes are shown as doing their best in the face of wilful neglect from government.

The final third is overtaken by its own anger at the situation and verges uncomfortably close to agit-prop, but this is impassioned, important film-making about a subject deserving of our fury and should lead to questions being asked at the highest levels.

Jodie Comer starred in Channel 4's Help with Stephen Graham, who played Tony, suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's.

The North Water (BBC2, Fri, 9.30pm and iPlayer) is a bit murky. In more ways than one. Lit be candlelight and weak Arctic sun, this tale of murder and madness on a Victorian whaler is a heady brew.

After gruelling dramas about 19th century whaling and Covid-19, it was a relief to fall into the arms of a new series of All Creatures Great and Small (C5, Thurs, 9pm) – a great big hug of a show.