“All I want the film to do is to start people talking,” says filmmaker Sue Bourne about her latest BBC1 doc, The Age of Loneliness. Best known for her single docs such as My Street, Mum & Me and Fabulous Fashionistas, Bourne’s latest tackles what she calls the silent epidemic of loneliness in the UK.

Greenlit by BBC1 controller Charlotte Moore, it features 14 contributors talking frankly to camera about one of the last taboos in a society that professes to be more connected than ever.

It took Bourne and producer/cameraman Daniel Dewsbury (pictured) four months of research to find the right contributors, whittled down from 500 people who were contacted. The key challenge, she says, was how to tackle the issue without making a miserable film. She’s done this by speaking to the young and old – a student, a young mum and a divorcee as well as older contributors.  “Loneliness is almost as bad for young people as it is for their grandparents now. They are feeling disconnected. But they were the hard ones to get. They don’t like talking about it or admitting it.”

Bourne’s great skill as a documentary maker is pulling out the extraordinary from the apparently ordinary. She persaudes contributors to open up and tell stories that resonate with us all. “I do spend a long time getting to know them,” she admits.

She spent three months filming, all around the country. “I didn’t want it to be London-centric, I wanted to show that loneliness is everywhere.” The interviewees were filmed in their homes; Dewsbury used the new Sony FS7 and prime lenses. “This is not a point and shoot doc. This is beautiful portraiture of people in their space,” says Bourne.

Bourne accentuated the sense of loneliness everywhere by using a drone to film interviewees outside their homes – in towns, city suburbs and in the countryside: “It is like we are looking down on it on every street, in every community, in every part of the country.”

The Age of Loneliness airs tonight at 10.35 (7 January) on BBC1

Tim Dams

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