Inspired by the courage of child carers in the UK, Cotton Wool is a film about a single mother who suffers from a stroke, leaving her teenage daughter and 7-year old son to care for her.
Like the film delves into, the idea that parents want to wrap their children in bubble wrap or cotton wool when they’re born has always existed. The need to care and protect your child will always come first. But this film looks at it from the other way around. In England and Wales, there are 243,000 carers under the age of 19, 22,000 of them being under the age of 9. No parent ever wants their child to have to stop being carefree and have to grow up in order to care for them, but in so many cases, there isn’t a choice. Watching live shows like Children in Need and Comic Relief over the years have made us aware that each family lives differently and needs support in different ways, so I’m glad that this film also shines a light on certain topics.
We’re introduced to what seems to be an everyday family. A single mum, played by Leanne Best, has to constantly tell her teenage daughter, played by Katie Quinn, to pick up her dirty washing. There’s also her 7-year old son, played by Max Vento, who when things go south, is the one to stand up and start getting the job done. I think we were all first introduced to Max when he starred in BBC’s The A Word which he began acting in at the age of 5. Now 10 (even though he was 7 when the film was made), you can see this young boy has so much talent. To be starring in two projects that both look at serious family topics, you can see he really means business. We love him and feel sorry for him on screen, so to think that real 7-year olds may have to begin to care for family members is quite sad to think about. I found it difficult to love Katie Quinn who plays his sister. Nothing to do with her personally, but her character reacted to the new situation quite badly. I have no clue how I would react if my life was turned upside down like theirs, so I can begin to understand why she was how she was. It made me angry that in the story she would leave her brother to care for their mum, but actually, a young girl needs her life and freedom. Of course, anyone would react how she did, but I’m glad she did see what she could do better.
We also have a range of really lovely adult characters. A local shopkeeper who has been through loss herself and a speech therapist who wants to help, really show us how whatever situation we’re in, we never are truly alone. If we need help, people will be there. Finally, let’s talk about Leanne Best. I think she truly did a fantastic job of playing someone go through something so extreme. It must’ve been difficult to get into character and build the emotions, but she did this so well, really putting across how parents must feel to put their children into these situations.
Written and directed by Nicholas Connor, who was 17 at the time of production, it really is an in-depth look into the lives of a family where things go wrong. It shows us how life can change at any moment, not always for the better, but that doesn’t mean you can’t grow stronger and better. To see someone so young create something so powerful, it really is amazing. It shows how young people can do anything if they put their mind to it, whether that’s making a film or caring for a family member.
With 45 awards, 72 nominations and 27 festival official selections globally, I’m so glad this film is getting out and about to really show the truths of child carers and their families. Whether you relate to the story or not, it’s so important that people acknowledge what is happening in our communities, so we are able to come together to help one another. Whether that’s donating to charities so that child carers can have days off to be children, or being aware if a local family needed help, we can all do more to make sure that children can be children, and that families can be happy and feel supported.