Kenilworth family’s recovery from tragedy made into feature-length Netflix documentary

The Shanks family. Back row from left: Osborn, Pippa, Vikie, Lorie, Mirie, Nikita. Front row from left: Jamie, Kacie.
The Shanks family. Back row from left: Osborn, Pippa, Vikie, Lorie, Mirie, Nikita. Front row from left: Jamie, Kacie.

The struggle of a Kenilworth family to cope with the suicide of a loved father and husband has been turned into a feature-length documentary.

Vikie Shanks and her seven children’s lives were turned upside-down when Vikie’s husband Paul committed suicide back in 2007. He was 51 years old.

Vikie, 59, was left to raise her six daughters and one son, who suffer from autism and dyslexia, on her own.

Her story has now been documented and turned into a film called ‘Kingdom of Us’, which premieres on Saturday October 7 at the London Film Festival.

It will then be released on streaming service Netflix on Friday October 13.

Vikie described the time immediately after Paul’s death as ‘terrifying.’

She added: “I just didn’t know how I was going to manage.

“But when something as traumatic as that happens, you go into autopilot, because you have to. You get through it almost second by second.

“It was very hard for the children. They just didn’t understand.”

The family, made up of Vikie, Jamie (26), Kacie (23), Lorie (22), Mirie (22), Nikita (20), Osborn (18) and Pippa (16), was filmed by documentary-maker Lucy Cohen over the space of three years.

Although initially conceived as a TV documentary about autism, as Lucy continued to film it became clear a feature-length documentary could be made about how the Shanks coped with such a tragedy and pieced their lives back together since Paul’s death.

As time passed, Lucy built up a strong level of trust with the family, and was able to get them to open up more and more. But a lot of the time, Lucy would take a back seat to what was going on around her and simply film.

Vikie said: “She’d just sit in the corner with a camera. Some of the best footage she got was when we kind of forgot she was around.

“Lucy’s one of the most sensitive people I’ve ever met. She’s an incredible person who understands us on a really deep level.

“It made the film a much better film than it might have been.”

Lucy’s footage was combined with home-video footage over the course of a year to produce the finished film. Much of the home footage that appears in the film is of the children when they were a lot younger, filmed by Paul.

Vikie described the film as ‘raw’ and ‘brutally honest’, and said she had mixed feelings about the film’s release.

She also said her children were excited about it, but some of the more intimate details of their lives being revealed could be hard for them.

Vikie added: “If the film was going to be staged in any way we’d want nothing to do with it.

“We’re hoping the film will help people who are suicidal and open doors to talk about things that are currently taboo.

“It’s exciting on that level, but terrifying on other levels. But I’m really glad we’ve done it.”