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Stars: Lucia Moniz, Ruben Garcia, Sophia Myles, James Felner, Maisie Sly, Brian Bovell, Kiran Sonia Sawar, Geoffrey Kirkness, Sian Abrahams

Director: Ana Rocha de Sousa

Social services, who have succumbed to a fair share of appalling failings in the 21st century, are portrayed as the out-and-out villains in this depressing Ken Loach-style drama that wears its heart a mite too obviously on its sleeve, although it does provide food for thought in the process. Here it's not failing to protect children in danger of which the services are guilty, but the very opposite - being over-protective, and fracturing an innocent family.

Portuguese couple Bela (Moniz) and Jota (Garcia) are living in such near-poverty in London that you wonder why they came to England in the first place. They have a TV, computer and mobile phones, but he, a graphic artist, works in a woodmill while she does cleaning to make ends meet, which apparently they don't, forcing her into shoplifting to fill the family larder.

They have three children: a sickly 14-year-old son (Felner), an eight-year-old deaf daughter Lu (the appealing Sly, who is really deaf) and a one-year-old baby girl. Social services get involved when Lu's hearing aid is broken, and their subsequent concern is perhaps understandable when she is found to have bruises on her back (she has a variety of purpura) and her mother leaves her sitting on cardboard by a wall with the baby while she goes to raid the local store.

Police and social workers move in swiftly to seize the children, whom they deem 'in imminent danger of harm', and take them into care; it seems unlikely - if no more than Bela's being not allowed to use sign language to communicate with Lu because the authorities don't know what she might be saying. But this sad and angry film assures us it happens, and the hapless couple find themselves in acute danger of losing all three kids, with Bela's frequent rages not helping the cause.

Even though the director's heavy-handed approach makes it tough going at times, the film does have something relevant to say and will make authorities and some social workers think hard if shown in the right quarters. Acting is variable, but Moniz, whose English is excellent, is particularly good as the understandably distraught mother.

David Quinlan

UK/Portugal 2020. UK Distributor: Bohemia Media. Colour (unspecified).
77 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 09 Jun 2022