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Nits — Harry Wootliff, 2003

James is a seven-year-old boy with two problems: after a trip to hospital his mum is distracted and not looking after him the way she usually does; and nits. Even after James’s father explains the cause of his mum's changed behaviour, James is confused by the situation. Unable to fully grasp his mother’s lack of consideration for him and irritated by his nit affliction, James grows increasingly angry and frustrated, but gradually gains understanding of his mother’s behaviour and, by recognising the sadness she is feeling, learns about the way people grieve.

You will find a complete National 5 Literacy and English unit for 'Nits' here.

Classroom Activities

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  • When James shouts, ‘It wasn’t my fault,’ what does he mean?
  • What are James’ misconceptions of death?
  • Show the scene where James throws the toys and blankets out of the window. Why does James do this? Discuss the technique used to show the passage of time: why does it take an unnatural time for the blanket to fall? What is it saying?
  • Screen the film and look out for different shot types and camera movements: close-ups; depth of field; pans; cuts between characters; the moving versus the stationary camera. What effect does this have on our knowledge of the characters and their relationships?
  • How do different angles and shot types show the relationship between James and his mother?
  • During the conversation in the sitting room, the focus of the depth of field changes from the adults to James. Discuss the connection between character and focus – can we tell what James is thinking by the way the camera focuses our attention?
  • Look at the use of high and low angles in the film (for instance, the low angle shot to show James coming down the stairs and the high angle used when James buys an ice cream). Discuss how camera angle can reinforce characters’ point of view.
  • Listen to the soundtrack of the film and discuss how sound adds to storytelling on screen. For instance, in the sitting room, the clock is ticking as James comes down the stairs and when he is waiting for his mother to come back from hospital. Why is this sound so important? How does the sombre music link with the colours used for the scene in which James comes down the stairs?
  • List moments when the camera is moving in the film and identify them. What story information are these camera moves communicating? (For instance, in the opening scene the camera slowly zooms into the window with the mannequin and cuts to zooming into James’ face – discuss what connection the filmmaker is trying to establish.)
  • Explore the scene where James’ mum is talking to him through the net curtain. Compare this with the scene where James is asking his mum why she is not in bed. Discuss how body positions emphasise roles and levels of communication. In the scene where James’ dad is telling him that the baby is dead, explore the shifts in level.


  • Freeze frame the scene where the father is kneeling by the bath talking to James. Why does the father stumble over the choice of words? Why is he kneeling at James’ level? Have you ever had difficulty explaining something or been at a loss for words? Why do you think the film cuts to the mother listening to the conversation? How would you describe James’ and his mother’s feelings at the time?
  • How does James deal with his grief? What is his initial reaction? Is this what you would expect?
  • How does the mother deal with her grief?
  • Where has the ice-cream seller’s wife been and why? What relevance does this have to James's story?
  • Why is the film called ‘Nits’ over another, perhaps more obvious, title? Suggest alternative titles.
  • Discuss feelings of loss, grief and death.
  • Do you think James is too young to handle the situation? Should children be protected from some difficult knowledge in life? What might that be? Why do you think that? What should they be told instead?



  • Write a story about a major event in your life.
  • Write an entry of the day in James’ diary. Encourage pupils to focus on feelings and perceptions.
  • Write a poem on the theme of loss.


  • Draw a self-portrait picture of what it is like to feel sad or lonely and happy.
  • Design a card to send to “my special Mum”.
  • Draw or collect photos of other animals that are symbolic of the fragility of life.
  • Investigate colour psychology. Look at the use of colour in the film – perhaps focus on the colour of James’ jumper compared to the other colours in the story, and the ladybird. Does this suggest any symbolic meaning?


  • Investigate nits – what are they and what are the symptoms/treatments?

Clip Details

Record Id 007-002-000-123-C
Resource Rights Holder Harry Wootliff
Project Ref STSH2-09
Year of Production 2003
Genre Drama
Curriculum Areas Expressive Arts, Health and Wellbeing, Literacy and English, Religious and Moral Education, Social Studies
Director Harry Wootliff
Country of Origin UK
Medium / Content Live Action, Fiction, Colour, Sound
Themes Feelings, Relationships, Loss / Memories, Identity / Self, Communication
Clip Length 10:00
Clip Length 10:00
Age Group P5-P7, S1-S3, S4-S6