By Peter Ede (Reel Reviews, Bexhill-On-Sea)


Once again, I was recommended a film that fell into a genre that I don’t usually enjoy watching. However, due to the recommendation I recently witnessed a provocative film The Help which surprised my expectations. The narrative was a similar one to Forrest Gump in terms of weaving in and out of knowing history with it being set in the 1960s and was centric on racial treatment along with a colloquial narrator who is also a main character. The script writing of this film was written to represent suffering and depression for a minority of characters whilst being written to show dominance and power over other races in a majority of the characters.

The culmination of the different scenes focuses on this aspect which made The Help a dramatic representation of historically domestic issues which worked cooperatively with a highly designed setting. This film, set in the 1960s, focuses on the distinguished opinions of the difference between black and white people, narrated by the main character Aibileen Clark and her experiences of serving under upper class families. However, when Skeeter wants to aspire to be a journalist, she interviews Aibileen, the maid, only to realise that more people have a lot more to say.

The interview between Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny was one of the most powerful scenes of a film I’ve witnessed. When us as an audience can bring the emotion and empathy to a scene, it immediately is powerful in my opinion. Aibileen describing her son’s death and comparing it to the other side of the community “the anniversary of his death comes every year, and I can’t breathe, but you lot just see it as another day of bridge”, not only was emotional but made white people appear as insulting and not caring whilst showing black people to possess and handle the “true” emotions.

I fell in love with the “gossip” factor that features every time these three speak, they’re solving history through a girl’s “bitching” session which was amusing but acted as the common stress reliever running through the characters. Skeeter’s epiphany in this scene through her silence was shown to the audience as her feeling stupid, thinking that times shouldn’t be like this. Her being involved in the discrimination of racial communities makes her more sensitive, she’s battling her guilt rather than her urge to become a journalist. A very powerful scene to witness.

Aibileen’s character wasn’t just a representation of herself, but a portrayal of American history for people of a different race and their wrongly placed position in the 60s which put a lot of pressure on her shoulders. However, her presentation was fantastically punctual and precise which is why she impressed me. Being part of a tight-knit black community, the way she speaks is different to all the maid’s points of view, as she builds a strong relationship with white people, but knows she won’t always be with them due to the supposed “law” in place.

Her attitude in each scene converts between happy and unappreciated which can be hard for an actress to achieve. When in a scene with white people controlling her, she appears glum, tired and exhausted which stands out more with white characters smartly dressed and domineering. All the way through the film, the audience begin to think that she’s going to do something about the situation she finds herself in but also makes her obvious fear the restraint in her actions which could most probably stretch her life, “you not knowing what could happen if we do this scares me the most, Miss Skeeter…”

The Help features great cinematography which assists the use of location, mirroring what times would appear as in the 60s. Many handfuls of wide shots were used, playing a huge part in presenting the upper class houses, enabling the audience to distinguish the different lifestyles between the characters. The use of 180 degree angles during the scenes featuring Skeeter and Aibileen bring together the two examples of both communities to show they’re not different on what I would call “the humanity spectrum.” The camerawork changes the atmosphere as characters merge together, showing the modern change of history whilst presenting the higher levels of happiness. A very good use of modern techniques to produce an old representation of the 1960s.

The Help being an underrated film, I would definitely recommend this to people who want to get a taste of the bad side of history rather than constantly seeing versions of “victories” or memorable moments. The narrative brings together the two communities which appear divided as the movie begins yet consolidated towards the end. Characters represent realism rather than a fictional narrative which pleases the audience. The wide shots specifically featured the setting of a 1960s set up which I connected well with the plot of this film and is very memorable for me in terms of a film’s structure.

The Help is something that all need to witness, not for pleasure, but for realisation of their own history and not just somebody else’s along with a few comical slapstick scenarios thrown in. A great film!

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