Eye For Film >> Movies >> Hell's Pavement (2008) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
There are 60,000 children in the social care system in Britain. Some are in children's homes, some with foster parents. Some are there temporarily during periods of family turbulence; some will be adopted; others will be there until they turn 18, after which they will be turned out with very little follow-up support. Many of them will suffer lifelong problems as a result of their experiences.
Loosely based on a true story and drawing on material from others, Hell's Pavement is a dramatisation of the story of one young girl, Aimee Collins (Keeki Bennetts). Removed from the care of a mother who protests that she did nothing wrong but may well be unable to cope, Aimee has nightmares, cuts herself and bitterly resents the legions of interfering strangers who tell her they're doing everything for her own good. At 11 years old she's developed the habits of someone who expects nothing good from the world. She withdraws, interacting as little as she can get away with, struggling to hold onto her own identity. When a couple of devoted foster parents refuse to accept this, showing themselves willing to take all she can throw at them and still trying to help, she finally begins to open up - but in a system where everything is focused on rules and budgets, this may leave her more vulnerable than ever.
It's fair to say that, in sticking closely to the facts, this film cannot be accused of exaggerating the absurdities of ritual and regulation that make Aimee's life so miserable, but it is overblown in its delivery in places, and this leaves it feeling unbalanced. Whilst we meet a sympathetic social worker who does her best, those at the management end of things are portrayed as completely callous, a representation that doesn't seem altogether fair. Nevertheless the film has enjoyed a lot of support from those working within social services. Their concerns about overly tight budgets and a lack of direct experience among senior management are reflected here, though there's curiously little comment on the responsibilities of politicians and the media, just brief references to fears of what the press will say if something goes wrong.
Where the film centres on Aimee and her foster parents, it works well, with solid performances and real energy. However the scenes focused on bureaucrats are every bit as tedious as sitting through such meetings in person and overall the film feels far too slow. It is doubtless important - and very well intentioned - but it lacks the dramatic clout that might have brought its message home to a more substantial audience.Reviewed on: 11 Nov 2009