In a series of frank interviews, Vicky Phelan, her solicitor, and the medical experts involved in bringing to light the CervicalCheck scandal explain its impact, as well as the emotional toll it took on their families as they fought both their disease and for accountability for those failed by the state...
There's a moment in 'Vicky' when Vicky's solicitor, Cian O'Carroll explains how Vicky Phelan was brought into the witness box during the lawsuit she brought against the HSE and the laboratories. He's explaining the questions put to her in relatively staid terms, but in a flash, his chin begins to quiver when he explains that she was doing all this the same week she was planning a Confirmation for one of her children. The woman was facing a terminal cancer diagnosis, battling the state in a court of law, and she's got a Confirmation to plan at the end of the week. What makes 'Vicky' even more harrowing is that her story isn't even unique. She was one of nearly two hundred women who the HSE and CervicalCheck failed.
'Vicky' speaks about cancer and how the HSE and CervicalCheck failed women in brutal, stark terms. It opens with Vicky Phelan standing on a beach, explaining how much she loves the sea, and that she is standing where she wants her ashes to be spread. Yet, the interviews she gives are matter-of-fact and laced with humour. She knows what she is facing, but her refusal to retreat from it is made clear in so many brief moments, either when she addresses a group of students or when she's alone in a hospital ward.
Together with these interviews, her own social media posts, archival news footage and intimate home videos, director Sasha King crafts a full picture of both Vicky Phelan's battle against both her cancer and her country. As an interviewee, Phelan has no qualms about anything. She speaks freely about the first hint of her having cancer in an intimate moment with her husband, through to her daughter's medical issues, and beyond to how she faces the unknown beyond her clinical trial and her own mortality.
The final moments of 'Vicky' lay bare exactly what happened to her, and why nearly two hundred women were placed in harm's way. Ireland was in a recession, and CervicalCheck and the HSE needed a cheap option. They died by Ireland's failures. For Irish women, this is nothing new. What 'Vicky' describes is how they survived and kept fighting, and the legacy they leave behind to their daughters to continue fighting.