I reviewed this poignant documentary about a rundown resort in Essex for New Empress magazine.
A short, sober corrective to the inane fantasy of The Only Way is Essex, Jaywick Escapes casts its eye on a far less comfortable part of the county. Jaywick, near Clacton, sprang up as a holiday resort, a haven for Londoners on a spree. Nowadays Jaywick is officially the most deprived area of the UK, and although it no longer throngs with tourists, it still attracts Londoners running away from their problems, hoping that a sea view and a cheap rented bungalow will change their lives for the better.
Jaywick Escapes introduces a handful of these refugees: wide-eyed rapper John, who has a daughter in London he hopes to reconnect with when she’s old enough to have a Facebook account; Kerrie and Sara, whose kids are in the care of relatives or social services, but who fled to Essex to escape their addiction problems; lovable geezer Nick “the cap”, whose past may also be littered with drugs and disappointments, but whose enthusiasm for his new life by the sea is infectiously endearing.
It’s easy to run to Jaywick, but it seems it’s very hard to stay. The winters, particularly in those skimpy bungalows, are bitterly cold, and there’s little work. Nick opens a junk shop, then closes it: customers would buy a washing machine one day, and return the next to sell it back to him. Sara expects she’ll be back in London, and her old life, as soon as the weather turns. The film itself opens with the optimism of sunny beaches and young couples making plans for the future but soon slouches into darker scenes: dashed hopes and painful revelations.
“You can’t blame Jaywick. Jaywick doesn’t make the people what they are,” says Nick towards the end of this documentary. But there is a reason why Jaywick attracts desperate people, and why it doesn’t offer them more than a temporary respite. This is a poignant film, elegantly shot and often very sensitive, but it is a slight one. I’d rather it spent a little more time investigating the town’s problems, and less cutting away to a view of the sea or the fun fair.
Jaywick Escapes screens at the East End Film Festival on 5 July