Someone’s Daughter, Someone’s Son: a clear-eyed look at the issue of homelessness

Director Lorna Tucker draws on her experience as a teenage runaway and has honest, illuminating conversations with those affected by homelessness in this candid documentary.

15 February 2024

By Philip Concannon

Earl Charlton in Someone's Daughter, Someone's Son (2024)
Sight and Sound

In the May 1997 edition of the Big Issue, the ‘Missing Persons’ feature contained a photograph of a 15-year-old girl who had been out of contact with her family for two months. Lorna Tucker ultimately spent 18 months on the streets before finding a way out, and her documentary Someone’s Daughter, Someone’s Son, is a clear-eyed look at the problem of homelessness, which recognises its severity and complexity but also emphasises the possibility of change.

Tucker recounts her troubled teenage years in interview segments that are filmed in an oddly coy fashion – her identity disguised by shaky close-ups of abstract body parts – but the most illuminating and affecting material comes in her more straightforward conversations with past or current rough sleepers. As these interviewees share their stories, patterns emerge: children fleeing homes broken by addiction and violence; women forced to choose the vulnerability of the streets over a domestic abuse situation; the lack of safe options for people seeking a bed for the night. “I’ve known people come in clean and walk out the biggest addict going,” one says, talking about homeless shelters.

Tucker has chosen her subjects well. They are open, thoughtful and endearing, none more so than Earl, a former drug addict who is now a support worker for the homeless in the north-east of England. It’s moving to watch him fight back tears as he recalls the pride he felt when given the chance to train as a barista and earn an honest wage, although he also gets a laugh when admitting his initial response was “I’d be a brilliant barrister!” The dignity of work and the importance of investing people with a sense of self-reliance and purpose are key themes here, with the Big Issue co-founder John Bird an impassioned and articulate speaker when discussing his magazine’s impact.

In the final 20 minutes of this compact film – less than 90 minutes long – Tucker meets charity workers to discuss what can be done by government to tackle homelessness. Someone’s Daughter, Someone’s Son is intended as a conversation-starter, and post-screening debates will hopefully continue to amplify this issue, but whatever impact Tucker’s film has, it’s valuable for the way it gives the homeless a space where they can tell their own stories and forges a connection between the audience and people we may walk past every day. “We’re not scumbags, we were like them once,” one woman says. “We’re still human beings. We’re not invisible.” In making this documentary, Tucker has given the homeless community what they desire most, the opportunity to be seen and heard.

► Someone’s Daughter, Someone’s Son is in limited UK cinemas from 16 February.

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