My Crazy Parents

Star rating: 4/5.

Channel 4
9pm, 16 September

Morgan Matthews’s documentary followed two teenagers whose parents have a mental illness, writes Clea Barry. At the start Lucy (15) talks eloquently about her mother’s depression and self-harm, but as the film progresses, she spirals down a similar path as feelings of anger and confusion surface. Martin (17) has been accepted into Oxford and is hoping his brother will return from care. But his father begins drinking again and Martin describes his life as “utter hell” as the roles of parent and child are reversed. Although the two young people seem to have reacted differently to similar experiences, both have lost their childhoods.

The film captures sensitively the emotional experience of the individuals. Matthews has obviously built up an incredible level of trust with the families who allow him to film them in crisis. He succeeds in illustrating the difficulties faced by the teenagers without blaming their depressed parents. His use of handheld cameras, a first person narrative and no interviews with outsiders all contribute to an almost uncomfortable intimacy which mirrors the families’ isolation. Both teenagers’ loneliness is also illustrated by their increasing use of the video diaries to confide their feelings.

This is no story of triumph over adversity; the film ends with Lucy in a psychiatric unit and Martin accepting that his brother should stay in care because home has become unbearable. The viewer is left feeling uncomfortable and worried for all four people. Powerful stuff.

Clea Barry is a child protection worker.

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