The Help

12 Feb

Director: Tate Taylor (2011)

Help_posterAdapted from Kathryn Stockett’s novel of the same name by close friend Tate Taylor, The Help tells the touching – yet harrowing – story of the relationship between a young white woman and her two black maids in 1960s Civil Rights era Mississippi.

Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone) is a young plucky journalist, hoping for a life that is a world away from the sterile existence of her middle-America girl friends. After her own beloved childhood maid Constantine leaves her home while she is at college, Skeeter finds her eyes opened to the realities of the treatment of the black maids. Calling on the services of her friend’s maid, Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) to help her answer domestic questions at her new job at a newspaper, Skeeter soon realises the extent to which the maids really run and raise the households.

Unhappy with the way she sees ‘the help’ treated, she decides to use her writing to give the women who raised her, her friends and now her friends’ children, by creating a book of their stories, exposing the abject racism they face every day. Of course, this is the 1960s, segregation is still very much enforced and while there may be hints at advances with the Civil Rights movement, this is small town America and the help are just that, accessories of status and power, unworthy of opinion or complaint. Skeeter refuses to accept this. Her next task is to somehow convince the maids to share their experiences of the racism that has become part of their lives at the hands of their employers. Easier said than done…

Nominated for a slew of awards including Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress for Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer (who won both the Oscar and BAFTA for her supporting role), The Help was an overwhelming success, mirroring the success of the book in revealing the truth behind the picket fences. Watching the burgeoning friendship grow between Skeeter and the maids behind closed doors as truths are heard and lessons are learned is heart warming but similarly a grounding reminder that this was all taking place only 50 years ago.


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