Irish comedy drama.  Larry has Down Syndrome and is planning a night with the girl that he loves Sophie, who has severe epileptic attacks, the only trouble is that in Ireland they are forbidden to develop a relationship due to the laws of our land.  But thanks to a young staff member of the occupational group that they are part of they are getting a hotel room on a night before Christmas.  We follow Larry and Sophie and also the other members of the group that are going to the cinema on one eventful night that may change all their lives forever.

I have to say it’s taken me four days since seeing this film to give the review a chance.  My feelings toward those with intellectual disabilities means that this was a touchy film from the moment the film started.  I believe that we, the Irish, seem to have the most backwards thoughts on every disability going.  The groups that are there to help people want people with disabilities to live the same lives as the able-bodied and intellect, yet the moment that Larry and Sophie, in this case, show that they care about one another everything is just in place to stop them developing the relationship that we all have the right to.

The film casts people with real life disabilities so there is no overly sweet performances, it’s all straight from the heart and straight from real life experiences.  The stories split between the wannabe lovers and the rest of the group.  What could have been overly theatrical and very sentimental is just one of the better romantic movies that I’ve seen this year.  Larry played by Kieran Coppinger is a self-assured leading man, while the heart of the film is Sophie played by Charlene Kelly.  The supporting cast is just sensational and give us a real rounded vision of what it’s like to have an intellectual disability in Ireland, while showing no matter how severe your condition is, love and laughter is always the best therapy.

When the film started I honestly thought that we were going to get the run of the mill sickly sweet Irish film that had more of a message than a story.  The message about how we treat people with any condition is clear and there, it’s hard to get away from, but in Sanctuary story is not sacrificed in order to get that message across.  The script is sparkingly funny in one moment and then we cut to a another scene and your heart will just break.

I don’t want you to worry about laughing at this film, the humour is natural and mocks more what people call the able think about the disabled rather than what the stereotypical jokes would be.  One scene where a member of the group talks about the menial work they have back at the group, which is stuffing plastic envelopes for a company, it was so funny when he breaks out to say he was so bored doing that job that he’d like to suffocate himself in one of the envelopes.  Again that shouldn’t be funny but the deadpan honest delivery just makes it a laugh out loud moment that cinema comedies could do with having some more of.

You sit in the cinema and you want to be entertained, you want your emotions to be touched and you want to be moved.  You want to feel that your hard-earned cash that is going to the cinema is worth every penny.  Here Sanctuary gives you real people in a dramatic role reflecting the real life legal pre-judgements.  Funny, moving, and real, this is one film that is worth your time and may just open your eyes to the rights of everyone to have that special someone in your life.

Director:  Len Collin
Writer:  Christian O’Reilly
Stars:  Stephen MarcusAmy-Joyce HastingsTara Breathnach

See full cast & crew


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