Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go

Reviewed By: Paul Griffiths

There are some uncomfortable moments in Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go, but if you have patience and persevere the film is both moving and rewarding.

That could well be the mantra for the dedicated team of teachers and support workers working at the Mulberry Bush boarding school in Oxford. All the young pupils have been excluded from other schools due to their extreme behaviours, caused by the severe emotional trauma that they have endured and still experience. The staff are frequently on the receiving end of verbal abuse, spitting and physical violence as they help the children to overcome the many challenges they pose to themselves and others. With patience and dedication they work through the violent confrontations to help the children regain control of their behaviour and their opportunities to have more fulfilling, less self-destructive lives.

Sensitively filmed throughout, documentary filmmaker Kim Longinotto observes in equal measure the children’s difficult and more relaxed times to present a rounded portrait of each. She focuses in on a handful of children specifically and her balanced view of the charismatic characters ensures that no one is presented purely as just a problem child, a label. Indeed, filming some with their visiting parents is hugely revealing and highlights that while the child may well act outrageously towards the staff, he or she is still very much an innocent, vulnerable victim in the world of adults. With this tragic understanding in relief, when the hard-won successes, small and large, eventually come for everyone there are some extremely moving and humbling scenes.

The film is the latest addition to Longinotto’s growing body of work, following her well-received Sisters In Law in 2005. Her canon repeatedly shows her skill at capturing the humanity of people and situations in an extremely accessible manner, which is respectful to both her subjects and her audience. Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go is no exception.

A simple, moving documentary.

From Eye for film

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