Unloved at The Bafta Cinema in Piccadilly

It’s rare and close to unique to spend an entire childhood, eighteen years,  in care of the social services.  Most people in care spend a few years  the majority  at the beginning of adolescence or in early childhood before adoption.  But for me it was eighteen years.

At  my office at 5pm I get changed  and then into  a taxi to the Bafta cinema in Piccadilly tosee the first screening of Samantha Morton’s  film for television,  Unloved.     Channel Four are starting a focus on children in care  called  Forgotten Children.  Samantha Morton’stelevision film Unloved heads this focus.  My friend David Akinsanya has produced a series called Find Me A Family which in twenty years of working in television,  is some of the best work he has ever done.

I heard the film was being shown followed by a question and answer session with Samantha Morton chaired by Rageh Omar.  I called Simon Hattenstone  last week to see if I could get tickets.  And I called Rageh too. Simon called Samantha who got me tickets for tonight but there’s  a mix up.  Tonight is the premier screening introduced by Samantha Morton followed by a talk with Samantha by Samantha.  It is a packed audience, not a seat in the house,  and yet extremely intimate.  Samantha is nervous and unafraid. She standsat the front of the cinema and gives an unscripted genuine introduction to the film.

My luggage from New York flight is in the coat room as I haven’t been home yet and the overly comfortable seats at the bafta cinema try and lull my jetlag into fully blown sleep but the film keeps me wide awake and alert.  I am in gentle tears at its end.  Not tears of sadness but empathy for the child on the screen and  the child I was and the sheer honesty.  

Unloved follows a child’s first few months in care.  It is undoubtedly the best, most true,  depiction  of a childs time in care that I have ever seen in a drama on television.    It’s a shock to find out that the actors were not actually children in care.  I am not going to give a blow by blow review of the film except to say that it was brilliant from start to finish.  Not for any other reason than I didn’t make notes when watching it.  I knew two actors in the film which made me smile. How many more connections could therebe.

When I entered Bafta, previous to the film,  I put my bags in the cloakroom. Inside  a man stood tapping away on his laptop and we started chatting about the film we were about to see.  Somehow I’d said I spent my time in care. He looked at me with my Kurt Geiger shoes, Calvin Klein trousers John Smedley T Shirt and Cashmere sweater and said “you look like you’ve done alright for yourself after a life in care”.  It was meant as acompliment.

I realised how far away from knowing the experience he really was.  It wasn't his fault.  These things I am wearing,  they’re just clothes. In someone’s world these are a symbol of success but as Samantha said at the end of the film  and as I have always said  “given my time in care success is being able to look in the mirror and think, you’re okay”  .  If he’d said that in the dressing room I’d have eaten my John Smedley shirt.  

As it happens I never got the opportunity to say hi to Samantha in person but in the following Q and A I did get to say to Samantha and the audience that “as a child whospent eighteen years in the care system this is the best  depiction of a child in the care  that I had ever seen on a television drama” to which the audience resoundly applauded.  

I feel like I have experienced a unique moment in television which will be refered to for years and years to come. It will be broadcast on Channel Four to the nation soon.  If you want other references for the film then I would suggest Ken Loaches “Kes” and to a slightly lesser degree "Hunger" by Steve Mcqueen. 

The Journalist (whom came with me) and I get home for midnight. It’s been a long and beautiful  day. It’s good to be back in London.