Former Fair City star Robbie Walsh was so shocked by the CervicalCheck cancer scandal that he said he was forced to make a film about it.
The tough guy Michael Inside is releasing The Letters this week, which tells the story of three fictional women facing death after receiving incorrect smear test results.
Walsh, who previously directed the Eden and Split films, said the shooting was a heartbreaking experience.
“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have cancer. But for this story to unfold the way it did… I think we really need to wake up and make sure this never happens again, ”said the Dubliner.
“The film itself is a fictional story inspired by real events. I remember hearing tidbits of information about the scandal as it slowly crept into the public consciousness.
“My ears started to strain and I thought, ‘What! Wait a second, that can’t be right.
“But thanks to people like Lorraine Walsh, Vicky Phelan, Emma Mhic Mhathúna and Lynsey Bennett, more and more revelations were being made and the more you learned, the more terrifying it became.
“It was scary because I have nieces, a mother, a sister and a lot of women in my extended family.
“I didn’t know anyone who had been misdiagnosed at this point, but I later interviewed some of the survivors and others with cervical cancer. It was very difficult to listen to their stories.
“It’s a very moving film. There are a lot of people who don’t really have a voice to be in the foreground.
“What we’re trying to do with this film is show how the average person, someone who doesn’t know how to use the media or the law, is affected by the scandal and how mundane everyday things become. almost impossible as they get sicker.
The film stars Love / Hate’s Mary Murray as a single mother of four whose husband is no longer there and Kathleen Warner Yeates as an older woman caring for her elderly mother who has advanced disease. ‘Alzheimer’s.
Sarah Carroll plays the third woman, a career professional who is socially awkward and reserved with no one to lean on.
Cardboard Gangsters star John Connors and Red Rock’s Chris Newman play family members while Walsh himself, who wrote, produced and directed the film, is an arrogant minister who refuses to accept responsibility. Fair City star Aisling O’Neill plays her publicist.
“The film follows women who all come from different walks of life and shows how they interact and how the misdiagnosis affects their lives,” says Walsh.
“They are not rich, do not have power or influence. One scene shows actress Kathleen Warner Yeates trying to shower her mom and it’s heartbreaking.
“The film addresses the desperation, helplessness of their situation and the realization that they face their own mortality on a daily basis.”
In real life, more than 220 women were given the green light for cancer when in fact their tests came back positive, but they weren’t told until years later.
Walsh said the film had an unexpected ending, “something that has never been seen in an Irish film before”.
He said: “This is really going to take people by surprise. I really think people who see it will be moved.
“Due to what happened with CervicalCheck, BreastCheck and BowelScreen are now no longer monitored. “
The director said that as soon as he decided to make the movie, the first person he signed up to was actress Sarah Carroll who appeared in his movie Eden, about a day in the life of ‘a homeless.
“There’s one actor that I love working with in particular and that’s Sarah,” said Walsh, who played gangster Ian Kehoe in Fair City, and also played the hardmen in Michael Inside and Love / Hate.
“Every time I make a movie or do anything with a movie, I call Sarah. There’s no one who can bring out the lightness in a scene where someone has no one.
“I needed someone who could be alone, with no one to take off with. Someone who could carry these personal issues on her own and Sarah Carroll was the actor for it.
Walsh said he received no funding for the film he made with the help of friends and family. Three of Mary Murray’s children in the film are her own nieces, Abby, Thea, and Paige Walsh.
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