Whose Child Is This?

In 1966 the British director Ken Loach made Cathy Come Home, a lacerating television drama about homelessness which had all England quarreling about the state’s role in perpetuating urban misery. How depressing that his new film may do the same in 1994. Based on a true story and filmed with documentary verité, Ladybird, Ladybird features a stunning performance by Liverpudlian comedienne Crissy Rock as Maggie, a single mother whose own childhood is horribly replicated when her four children, after witnessing a boyfriend slap their mother around, are removed by Social Services. Maggie begins a new life with Jorge (Vladimir Vega), a gentle Paraguayan immigrant; but as they try to retrieve her children and create a family of their own, they sink ever deeper into the heedless, condemning bureaucracy of the welfare apparatus, Maggie’s desperately short fuse and her complete inability to play the system present the tragic proposition that her legacy of abuse as a child, aggravated by the inelasticity of the agency that’s meant to help her overcome it, threatens to turn her into what the welfare officers call her—an unfit mother who truly loves her children. Ladybird, Ladybird is a Christmas release that will break your heart. So it should.