Poignant Pandemic-era Drama Debuts on Acorn

Patient and caregiver comfort each other at a COVID-stricken nursing home in Acorn TV's acclaimed new drama

Patient and caregiver comfort each other at a COVID-stricken nursing home in Acorn TV’s acclaimed new drama

A young care worker forms an unlikely friendship with a dementia patient as the COVID-19 pandemic strikes their facility in a new movie upcoming on Acorn.

In Help, which begins streaming Monday, Killing Eve breakout Jodie Comer stars as Sarah, a directionless young woman who appears to find her calling when she goes to work for a nursing home in the English countryside. One of the patients, Tony (Stephen Graham, Boardwalk Empire), is 47 and has early onset dementia, which causes him episodes of confusion and aggression that other workers find difficult to handle but Sarah has a talent for keeping under control.

Alas, when the pandemic strikes, all bets are off. Confusion and fear reign as misinformation circulates and the ill-equipped workers and their overwhelmed manager Steve (Ian Hart, The Last Kingdom) struggle to protect the residents, in some cases to no avail. Sarah is left to shepherd Tony through it—and vice versa.

The film is the brainchild of Jack Thorne, who wrote the screenplay as a love letter to the care industry and to call attention to how overworked, underpaid and underappreciated the workers are. Graham, who had always wanted to work with Comer, was intrigued by the idea, signed on and undertook rigorous research to play Tony, including spending time with dementia patients.

“It was my idea from the onset not to play the illness but to play the man…” the prolific British character actor explains. “I really got to understand [not only] the illness but predominantly how the illness affected them and how it was a part of their lives. And you know, we [would] go into minute detail about the frustrations that they have, and they explained to me how anger can arise and you can feel the anger and you want to be able to stop it and you get lost.”

And though the formal relationship between Sarah and Tony is that of caregiver and patient, the personal one is more symbiotic. Graham created Tony to be a sort of favourite uncle you could joke around with—which Sarah is drawn to. Meanwhile, Tony sees in Sarah the sister he lost.

“It’s a meeting of soulmates,” Graham muses. “It’s kind of like two people at that particular point in their lives really need each other to help them through that process that they’re going through… and the great fates have put them together so they can walk that path of their journey together for that space of time. And each one brings out the best in the other.” 

Help streams Mondays on Acorn TV