The Letters is a beautiful independent film that we strongly recommend.
Released last year in Ireland and this year in the USA, The Letters received much praise for its portrayal of three women’s stories inspired by the severe health crisis in Ireland. From 2018 to the present, over 200 women were given false negative cancer smear tests in Ireland, which resulted in some developing and dying from cervical cancer.
We sat down with The Letters director Robbie Walsh (Eden, SPLIT) and he told us the story of how the film was shot in Ireland at the end of the pandemic lockdown without major funding and quietly became the sleeper hit of 2022 in festivals around the world. It was Executive Produced by Tim O’Hair (Black 47, Hologram for the king, Hulk, U.571) and Walsh’s longtime producing partner Philip McRory (Eden,SPLIT).
The feature film is inspired by the ongoing cervical check cancer scandal that is currently taking place in Ireland. The film, released in October of last year, tells the story of three women directly affected by the scandal. All hailing from different walks of life, these women have been given weeks to live amidst the false results of their cervical cancer checks.
The film stars the excellent and striking Sarah Carroll (who will appear in Sundance TV’s The Vanishing Triangle) as Cliona, a single career driven woman who is mildly on the spectrum. Kathleen Warner Yeates as Mary, a woman in her 50’s who is the sole carer of her elderly mom with late-stage Alzheimer’s, and Mary Murray as Sam, a single mother in debt and struggling to raise her four kids.
Also starring in the film are Aishling O’Neill (Carol in Fair City), John Connors (Cardboard Gangsters, Broken Law), Chris Newman (Red-Rock, Song For a Raggy Boy) and a superb Ann Russell (The Secret Rapture, Family) rounding out the cast.
Director Robbie noticed that this was one of the most challenging films he’s ever directed because of “its delicate subject matter, and trying to film and edit the film during COVID lockdowns”.
Walsh said it was a heartbreaking experience shooting the picture when creating “The Letters, “I don’t know anyone that isn’t affected by cancer. But for this story to unfold the way it did, I think we really need to wake up and make sure it never happens again,” Walsh explains.
He continues, “The film itself is a fictional story inspired by true events. I remember hearing bits of information about the scandal as it was slowly creeping into the public consciousness.”
The Letters tackles more topics beyond addressing several heavy themes, not just cancer but homelessness and society’s attitude towards the care of the elderly, and also touches on the consequences of the Magdalene Laundries. Robbie believes it’s essential to reference social issues in his work and believes that, without addressing problems, they can be forgotten.
The film addresses the hopelessness, the powerlessness 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 all-clear for cancer when in fact, their tests had proved positive, but they were not told until years later. Robbie hopes people see it was made with the best intentions, and he hopes when anyone watches who may be affected by any of the subjects or topics we cover, they know they are not forgotten.
Check out The Letters and its trailer here.