One in a Million is a short social drama which focuses on Kevin; an orphan and autistic teenager living in the South East. Kevin is obsessed with becoming a millionaire and fantasises daily about winning the lottery and escaping the shackles of his impoverished seaside hometown. As Kevin struggles to come to terms with growing up, the harsh and lonely world of adolescence, tragedy looms over the horizon …
I wrote One in a Million before I came to the London Film School and always intended it to be my graduation project. The film is set in my hometown of Herne Bay, Kent and based loosely on my own experiences growing up.
Ultimately, I wanted to make a film which captured a side of British life — too often ignored by the mainstream and brushed under the rug by your typical political commentators.
For decades now, the white, working class in this country have been either demonized or castigated by many on both the ‘soft left’, the right, and centre ground. Their concerns have not been treated with any kind of serious action or thought; concerns which are utterly justified and true in a lot of cases. Indeed, I find it somewhat fitting that this film has been completed around the time of the shock Brexit result; a working-class revolt of sorts.
Regardless of one’s interpretation of Brexit, poverty in this country is now at levels not seen since the Victorian era. The Trussell Trust, very recently, released a study which suggested that well over 1.1 million three-day emergency food parcels were provided to people in ‘crisis’ by the charity’s network in 2015-16. This is in comparison to 41,000 parcels in 2009-10: a devastating increase of 2,612 per cent in the number of people needing aid in order to put a meal on the table since David Cameron became Prime Minister. I would like to add that the New Labour experiment under Tony Blair, now fighting Jeremy Corbyn for control of the party, are just as guilty in many ways as the austerity-minded Tories.
This trend however, is not a new phenomenon. Poverty, particularly inequality, has been on the rise since Thatcher came to power at the end of the 1970s. The financial crisis in 2008 simply epitomized the destructive and volatile forces of ‘neoliberalism’ or ‘free market capitalism’, with the poor being forced to pay for the sins of the wealthy and their greed.
What does this have to do with a film about an autistic teenager, you say?
Well, in places like Herne Bay — the film’s primary setting, although never explicitly mentioned — you can clearly see that some of the locals are struggling to get by. The white, working class in areas like these has effectively been disenfranchised by a metropolitan political establishment, too busy sipping cocktails in Belgravian wine bars, whilst wages stagnate, living standards drop and public services collapse.
Young people especially, like the characters in this film, are the real victims in all of this. Their futures, on the whole, have been really damaged — if not entirely destroyed. Instead of social mobility, it looks like many of these people and their families will descend rather than rise up the social ladder, as austerity continues to bulldoze what remains of the welfare state and the global economy sleepwalks into crisis after crisis.
For Kevin, the main character in One in a Million, his only hope, his only way of combating the harsh social reality, is to retreat into the world of fantasy. The fantasy of winning the lottery, the fantasy of becoming rich, the fantasy of a heavenly afterlife. All of which are lies. And as the film makes painfully clear, spoilers … fantasy will not save him from his future.
Now, I do not think (or intend) there to be any direct ideological or political message to One in a Million. On the contrary, I find the film to be more of an ode to childhood; the funny, cruel and awkward sentimentality of adolescence, rather than a depressing, Ken Loach-inspired social nightmare.
However, the film was meant to shed some light on how certain people in this country live; and the bleak futures, I fear, which await many of them. The people who have been exploited by Farage; forgotten by New Labour; impoverished by the Tories; and are neither black, middle class or gay enough for liberal sympathisers, like Polly Toynbee, to find purposeful.
Kevin needs more than just fantasy to save him.
Front Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Halfpenny_dinners_for_poor_children_in_East_London._Wellcome_L0001135.jpg