A star rating of 4 out of 5.

As more COVID vaccinations are administered and people return to work, it can be easy to forget just how dire the situation was last year – particularly for care homes, which accounted for 40 per cent of deaths from March to June 2020.


Channel 4's Help ends on this statistic, written in white letters on a sobering black screen. While it's information that many of us heard at the time, it hits especially hard after watching two-hours of Jodie Comer delivering one of the best and most heart-breaking performance of her already-stellar career.

The one-off drama, written by His Dark Materials' Jack Thorne, follows Sarah (Comer), an underachieving young woman who gets a job as a carer in Liverpool's Bright Sky Homes, a care home mainly populated by patients with Alzheimer's and dementia, and finds that she's a perfect fit for the role. Jovial and chatty with the residents but never condescending, Sarah finds herself building good relationships with the Bright Sky patients, particularly Tony (Stephen Graham), who suffers from Young Onset Alzheimer's.

  • You can hear Jodie Comer and Stephen Graham talking to RT's Jane Garvey on the Radio Times Podcast

Help's light-hearted, uplifting tone takes a turn when reports of the first coronavirus cases in the UK play from Sarah's car radio. Staff are asked to start wearing masks and visitors are banned as the first few coughs are heard from various rooms in Bright Sky. Soon residents' names are being removed from their doors as newly empty beds are disinfected and what was a heart-warming drama quickly turns into a panic-inducing horror film.

Channel 4

Casting the King and Queen of the Liverpudlian acting scene, Stephen Graham and Jodie Comer, in a COVID drama written by the BAFTA-winning Jack Thorne was always bound to set expectations incredibly high – but thankfully all three, along with director Marc Munden, live up to the hype, creating a feature-length tribute to the pandemic's hard-working carers.

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While it's initially a shock to hear Comer speak in her natural Scouse voice and not the sharp Russian accent we're used to hearing from Killing Eve's Villanelle, the BAFTA winner effortlessly becomes Sarah, a relatable young woman with mascara smudged above her eyelid who's not afraid to stand up for herself when challenged by Bright Homes manager Steve (Harry Potter's Ian Hart).

Comer brilliantly portrays this multi-layered character, allowing viewers to be a fly-on-the-wall as she tells jokes to resident Gloria (Sue Johnston) and recites Lily Allen's The Fear to a former English teacher with dementia but still a love for poetry.

The main highlight of the two-hour film is Comer's chemistry with Graham, whose breathtaking performance as Alzheimer's patient Tony is unsurprisingly brilliant. The pair's brother-sister relationship balances moments where the two share a laugh, with other times when Sarah has to calm Tony down from a confused violent outburst, and truly shows off the magnificent range of these two British stars.

Help's most impressive sequence of all, however, has to be a 20-minute, one-shot scene in which the camera follows Sarah as she cares for Kenny, an older patient suffering from a COVID-caused coughing fit, whilst trying to get ahold of the emergency services.

The intense sequence focuses on Sarah, who is the only carer on shift as all her colleagues are having to isolate, as tries to keep a grip on the situation but increasingly begins to panic as she realises that help is not on its way. With Sarah rushing around to the tinny sound of NHS 111's hold message, the scene becomes truly gut-wrenching when a shaky-voiced Sarah tells her patient: "I'm sorry Kenny, no one's coming."

While Thorne could have ended Help there, he decided to take the film in a less predictable direction in its third act, which I won't go into detail about in order to avoid spoilers. The final chapter takes Comer and Graham's dynamic to a new level and creates even more tension for viewers.

Most important, Help really does hit home the traumatic experience many carers would have gone through whilst trying to look after vulnerable care home residents throughout the pandemic. The drama shines a light on a community that didn't get enough credit for their work last year, emphasised even further by the seminal performances of Graham and Comer. Hopefully this isn't the last we'll see of the Liverpudlian powerhouses working together.


Help airs on Thursday 16th September at 9pm on Channel 4. Visit our Drama hub for more news and features, or find something to watch tonight with our TV Guide.