Shelter’s new film has a heart-wrenching twist

Brave Face, created by Don’t Panic and directed by Si&Ad, tells the story of Jayden, who’s doing his best to keep a smile on his face through a series of tough life moments

The homelessness charity’s new film sets out to expose the grim reality of the UK’s 119,500 children who’ll wake up on Christmas Day in bleak, temporary accommodation. However that’s not immediately made obvious to viewers.

Brave Face opens on Jayden, practicing his best smile in the mirror, and deploying it in response to the day-to-day hardships of school, including no pudding in the canteen, and a bad mark on a test.

It’s all very charming, but the positive narrative begins to unravel halfway through, when we cut to Jayden and his mum moving into a tiny flat.

It’s a heart-wrenching watch, made all the more so by the innocuous build up, as well as some brilliant casting – much like Shelter’s 2021 Christmas film, which similarly tackled the realities of being homeless during the festive season.

“We wanted our audience to fall in love with young Jayden, to smile, or even laugh, along with him,” explains Rick Dodds, creative partner at Don’t Panic. He says that the creative team worked hard not to “exaggerate or inflate” the story, in order to show people the reality of children spending Christmas in temporary homes.

Shelter says families are frequently moved from one place to another with little notice, and that the homes themselves are often cramped – meaning families have to share a bed.

The Brave Face film is accompanied by an online campaign, featuring photography by Jim Fenwick.

Agency: Don’t Panic
Creative Partner: Rick Dodds
Creative Director: George McCallum
Production Company: Academy Films
Directors: Si&Ad
DOP: Alex Barber
Edit: Final Cut
Post: Electric Theatre Company