Suicide and mental health are vitally important topics of discussion, with Kingdom of Us facing these head on. In a relentlessly challenging documentary brought to us by Netflix, creator Lucy Cohen shows the Shanks family in the years after Paul, the husband and father, commits suicide.
There is no way to sugarcoat the fact that this is an incredibly difficult and upsetting documentary to watch. Details that are drip-fed throughout regarding Paul’s suicide and the lead up to it are heartbreaking and troublesome to come to terms with. The family themselves, 8 years on, are still processing everything. Each member of the family is at very different stages of grief, with the children being on the autistic spectrum adding an extra layer of difficulty in understanding their own emotions.
An inspiring and strong unit, the seven children (six sisters and one brother) and their mother are a testament to each other. Cohen collates new and old family footage, weaving together a rich portrait of the complexities of mental health and bereavement. Shots of the children and their interactions with their father show huge amounts of love and compassion, but the underlying sense of fear is there throughout. Cohen handles the interviews with the family members in an incredibly sensitive way; you never feel that you’re intruding.
Sadly, the documentary is just too long and begins to drag about 30 minutes before the end. While the story is one that undeniably has to be told, the very slim shards of hope that the conclusion offers is disheartening.
The Shanks family are an incredible group of people, with a story that has to be seen to be believed, but as a film it is just simply too long, with the last hour lacking structure. With some serious editing this could be an even more powerful documentary.
DIRECTOR: Lucy Cohen
SYNOPSIS: A documentary showcasing the struggles of one family going through tragedy.