Film Review: Sanctuary

A cursory glance at the list of Oscar winners would indicate that the Academy members love a film about someone with a disability or disease. However, when it comes to casting disabled actors, studios tend to run to the (Hollywood) hills. Thankfully, this seems to be changing. At least in independent cinema. Albeit, very slowly. Last year, My Feral Heart demonstrated how successful casting lead actors who are disabled can be. In Sanctuary, director Len Collin goes a step further.

Larry (Kieran Coppinger) is in love with Sophie (Charlene Kelly). However, the law in Ireland makes it illegal for people with intellectual disabilities to have sex outside of marriage. He persuades Tom (Robert Doherty), a care worker, to help. On a group trip to the cinema in Galway, Tom sneaks the pair out to a hotel with the help of a friendly receptionist (Karen Murphy), however the others in the group have their own ideas.

Sanctuary wraps up a very serious subject within a screwball comedy. There’s a very important underlying message. Whilst the law has now been repealed, the fact it was on the books in the first place illustrates how dehumanising adult life can be for certain groups. Collin cleverly balances the wackiness and the drama. Screenwriter Christian O’Reilly adapts his own stage play and Collin keeps the same cast who were so successful in the theatrical production. The largely intellectually disabled cast are superb. Sanctuary is an important film and a fresh look at social filmmaking.

Sanctuary is out in cinemas from 29 December.

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