Until very recently (pre-2017), as a response to abuse scandals, it was illegal for people with special needs to have sex outside of marriage.
It is against this backdrop that Larry, a young man with Down's syndrome and Sophie, a young woman with epilepsy, fall in love and want to explore their physical relationship. On a day out to the cinema their care worker Tom arranges a hotel room so they can have some private time together. But the plan does not run as smoothly as anticipated.
This unique love story exposes how society fails to address the issue of the romantic lives of individuals with special needs. The film tackles the subject from diverse angles, covering inclusion, perception, etc., but does so with humour and genuine feeling for those involved.
Awarded the Dublin Film Critics Circle Award for Best Irish Feature Film.
“A devastating conclusion leaves us with an aching sadness and some quite profound questions about the basic human right to love the person we choose.”
- Wendy Ide, The Guardian
“Until recently, people with an intellectual disability in Ireland were banned from having sex unless they were married. Sanctuary aims to show up the injustice of the law. Very worthy – but right-on sermonising this ain’t. Thoughtful, nuanced and fun, it subverts received ideas about disability in its very approach to filmmaking.”
- Alex Dudok de Wit, Sight & Sound
“Films such as Sanctuary have a crucial role to play in our culture today; they open a dialogue and hopefully prompt debate of issues that should be of serious concern in any healthy society. To do so with the humour and compassion evident in Sanctuary is an achievement that will be appreciated by audiences across Ireland, and I expect, internationally.”
- Seán Crosson, Film Ireland
"Should chime with all cinema audiences... A really, really impressive piece of work."
- Mark Kermode