DIR: Norah McGettigan • WRI: Norah McGettigan, Gabriel Vargas • PRO: Andrew Freedman, Katarzyna Slesicka • Marius Matzow Gulbrandsen • ED: Mariusz Kus • Cast: Jan Frycz, Anne-Marie Duff, Agnieszka Zulewska
The Irish-Polish co-production debut Sanctuary by Norah McGettigan tells a story of grief, heartache, love and self discovery.
Sanctuary is no safe haven; it’s an emotional journey about a very successful Warsaw plastic surgeon that isn’t so successful at balancing his home life. Over the years a hole in his relationship with his wife grows deeper. Although they live in the same house it has long been a home that they shared together. One day Jan (Jan Frycz) returns home from a business trip to find his wife dead in the back garden. His daughter Nadia (Agnieszka Zulewska) returns to the house and for the first time in years she is present in the same room as her father who she resents deeply for letting her mother down. The sentiment between the pair is of loss, awkwardness and hurt and it’s beautifully portrayed. Jan struggles with his grief and is unable to deal with the energy between his daughter and himself so he escapes with the excuse of a conference abroad seeking refuge in his hotel there. There he meets a beautiful woman Marie (Anne-Marie Duff) who reminds him of his late wife and the happier times they shared together.
The acting from Jan Frycz is fantastic! He manages to show an old heavy soul with complex characteristics throughout. His voice has a beautiful strong, deep, velvety tone to it. Agnieszka Żulewska’s first foray into feature film was good, she played the disappointed, grieving daughter well and it’ll be interesting to see how she develops throughout her acting career. Anne-Marie Duff played the adorable love interest in a quirky, fun way which was a great choice as you might have found it hard to relate/like her character giving that Jan’s wife had just passed away. But she manages to get you on side early on in the film and you find yourself rooting for the pair to get together. Norah McGettigan’s film flows nicely and has true to life moments which pull on your heart strings a little. It’s sweet, yet heartbreaking, an odd combination but a wonderful mix.