It Takes A Flood review: A picture of Britain as a fragile and increasingly soaked little island

·2-min read
First-time flood victims Roger and Linda  Walsh watch the rain from their home in Rendenhall, Norfolk (Docsville Production)
First-time flood victims Roger and Linda Walsh watch the rain from their home in Rendenhall, Norfolk (Docsville Production)

The title of ITV’s fine documentary It Takes a Flood prompts the response: “If only it did.” If only the increasingly frequent and destructive floods so graphically recalled in this film did make us all say “enough is enough”, make some changes and build some proper flood defences. Of course, they did not.

As one of the participants in this film says, the problem is that floods tend to be forgotten, and only remembered by those not directly affected by them as freakish events, out of the ordinary, exceptional. Increasingly, though, extreme weather is the new normal, and in all parts of the kingdom.

This breadth of experience is a strength of the film. Filmmaker Kevin Macdonald and his colleagues skillfully weave abundant mobile phone footage, archive news reports and fresh eye-witness accounts to build a picture of Britain as a very fragile and increasingly soaked little island. From the Scottish Borders to the Somerset Levels to Norfolk to London, the stories are invariably affecting. The flood rescue guy in Hawick, interviewed as he watches the local bistro falling into the river; the family in Somerset, initially “fascinated and excited” by the rush of water, but soon using hammers and axes to try and break up the huge chunks of tarmac in a “boiling river” before they demolish their home, and almost drowning in the process; the Sikhs from Slough who get in their vans with sandbags and curries to help their fellow citizens in the West Country; the insurance man standing with wet feet in a wrecked bar on Portobello Road, observing it is the first time a flood claim has come in from that locale. One of the saddest stories is of the retired soldier in Hemsby, helpless as half his park home, literally built on sand, quietly falls off the cliff: dreams, futures, memories – all flushed away.

Recalling the waves of floods so far in this century, the testimony in this film is compelling and powerful evidence of climate change, and that nature is bigger than humanity. It’s a timely and a fitting programme for Cop26 week, but I would have appreciated a little more science, and, frankly, a bit more terrifying brutality about where this all might end. But then this is supposed to be family viewing, before the watershed, and the children are frightened enough already: it’s just a pity that the grown-ups running the world aren’t.

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