Star Rating:

The Bright Side

Director: Ruth Meehan

Actors: Gemma-Leah Deveraux, Karen Egan, Siobhán Cullen, Kevin McGahern

Release Date: Friday 20th August 2021

Genre(s): Comedy, Drama

Running time: 100 minutes

Kate McLoughlin (Gemma-Leah Devereux) is a world-weary stand-up comedian who thinks life can’t get much worse. Then she is diagnosed with breast cancer. Kate begrudgingly agrees to undergo chemotherapy and starts to form a support group with the other women in her chemo ward. Cynical and defensive, turning to humour to push the realities of her situation away, Kate struggles to connect with anyone, but these ladies’ friendship will soon mean everything to her.

Gemma-Leah Devereux has long proven herself a terrific actress, her credits spanning a number of Irish movies, and series like ‘The Tudors’, ‘Casualty’, and more recently, ‘Smother’. She lives the character of Kate and manages to balance between stubbornly frustrating as well as deeply sympathetic well.

The script, inspired by comedian Anne Gildea’s memoir ‘I’ve Got Cancer, What’s Your Excuse?’, as well as drawing from the director and co-writer Ruth Meehan’s own experiences as her sister died of cancer, is effective and thoroughly genuine. The way Kate’s family is written as she’s grown distant from her mother, but exhibits a rare warmth to her brother and niece, is really well done. Even more lovable are the cancer patients who Kate meets – Fiona (Karen Egan), Roisin (Barbara Brennan), Helen (Derbhle Crotty), and Tracy (Siobhan Cullen) – who are totally different personalities, but share this tragic diagnosis in common. Tom Vaughan-Lawlor is also charming as the widowed pharmacist, Andy.

There are some really likable scenes when she's gathered with the other cancer victims, and joy when they let their guard down. However the reminder of cancer is never too far away. Kate is determined to make light of everything, not expressing how she really feels, but it is clear that she’s afraid and truly shook at the prospect of losing her womanhood. The stand-up scenes neatly punctuate the feature, but one struggles to ever relax enough to find things funny.

Still ‘The Bright Side’ is, as its title suggests, hopeful, and throughout it is emotional, stirring and touching. Those who have had friends or relatives go through cancer will find the movie a particularly challenging watch. In terms of filmmaking, Ruth Meehan has really impressed, and someone give Gemma-Leah Devereux all the awards already.