This sensitive documentary keeps viewers at arm’s length

Katie Price and her son Harvey (BBC/Minnow Films/Richard Ansett)

Katie Price has prepared for this moment. For any parent, sending your grown-up child out into the world is bittersweet – but when yours was born with complex needs and conditions, and has required near-constant care for his whole life, as Price’s son Harvey has, it is a whole new level of worry. Though many might recognise her best as a charismatic glamour model turned reality TV star, Price clearly lives a more complicated life beyond what’s reported in the tabloids. Last year’s film Katie Price: Harvey and Me offered a touching insight into the mother and son’s relationship as Harvey became an adult. Now aged 19, he is about to move away to a full-time specialist college that will give him skills for a more independent future.

This sensitive follow-up documentary, Katie Price: What Harvey Did Next, shows how mother and son adjust to living apart for the first time. Like before, we get an insight into their deep connection; it’s a bond that has them finishing each other’s sentences, sharing regular hugs and kisses and frequently telling the other “I love you”. Price knows exactly how to calm Harvey when he’s feeling overwhelmed – and there’s no sense they’re putting this on for the camera.

Despite Price putting on a brave face, her anxieties about their separation become clearer as the day of Harvey’s departure draws nearer. “And if you’re sad, what will you do?” she asks him. “FaceTime,” Harvey responds. Though it’s meant to settle her son, it’s clear that this is reassurance for Price, too. Her son grew up without a relationship with his father, so he’s been solely her responsibility.

Soon, Harvey arrives at National Star in Cheltenham and the Prices’ paths split. The film then zooms out to give more of a general overview of life at the college. We meet some of Harvey’s college mates, as well as the skilled staff who work hard to empower the students. They think of novel ways to quell Harvey’s distress at medication time and are unfazed when he smashes a fridge at the college shop. His upset often comes suddenly, and makes for uncomfortable viewing. Yet, the confidence of the staff as they weather Harvey’s episodes is encouraging; maybe his mum won’t have to come running to his rescue, after all.

While much of the documentary’s focus is on how Harvey develops, we also get to see how his mum copes with the change. She’s looking forward to learning how to live without her son in the house, she says. Unfortunately, the journey to her own freedom isn’t without hitches; weeks after Harvey leaves, she crashes her car and is arrested for driving while over the legal alcohol limit. She’s diagnosed with an anxiety disorder during her stay at a judge-recommended mental health facility.

This legal and emotional battle, perhaps, is a reason why this film seems to keep the audience at arm’s reach. Though it’s successful in showing the next steps in the Prices’ lives, What Harvey Did Next is missing the personal commentary and additional context that made their story shine before. Of course, with the show being focused on their lives becoming more separate, those sweet moments together are scarce and it’s a shame, because these raw expressions of affection make up for the film’s lack of depth elsewhere.

The documentary leaves Harvey at the end of his first term, as the students watch a fireworks display. As he makes strides in his communication and his tea-making and cake-baking skills, Harvey’s future seems bright. And Price’s next moves look positive, too. She announces her plans to see a therapist once a week and acknowledges that she needs to figure out less destructive ways to manage her stress. It’ll take time to feel the benefits of these choices, but for Harvey’s, and her sake, you can only hope that she sticks to them.

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