Somebody to Love

Director: Anna Rodgers, Producer: Wildfire Films, Ireland, 2014, English53′, Rights: World.

Love, sex and disability are explored in this documentary which takes us into the romantic lives of people with physical or intellectual disabilities. Sexuality is an integral part of life and is recognised as a basic human need. Yet, for people with a disability, it is often disregarded. In fact, our culture, society and even sometimes our judicial system, imposes limitations upon the romantic lives of the disabled.

Largely observational in style and relying on first-hand experiences the documentary Somebody To Love provides a diverse range of stories from all around Ireland from individuals or couples with different disabilities.

Sexuality is not only about attraction or about the act of sex itself. It is about self-esteem, gender and body awareness, as well as the formation of relationships. It is, for many, the search for that which makes life ultimately worthwhile: human connection.

The programme is opened by the charming Kieran Coppinger (33), an actor with Down’s syndrome from Blue Teapot Theatre Company in Galway. Together with his leading lady Charlene Kelly (29), who also has an intellectual disability, they are putting on a play, challenging a little-known law which governs the sex lives of the intellectually disabled.

In Dublin, Mandy Finlay [40] has Down’s Syndrome and lives in the St John of Gods Service. Mandy has always had a boyfriend in her life and her mother, Frieda Finlay, has been campaigning on capacity and decision making laws for over 20 years. She believes in Mandy’s right to romance.

A lack of clarity in the legislation is sometimes used to control sexuality and the rights to relationships for people with intellectual disabilities.

Ciara Staunton [27], from Wicklow, had an accident in her early twenties. It took her some time to regain her self-esteem and sense of sexuality, but she is actively back in the dating world. She describes the experience of self-rediscovery as a second puberty.

Her friend Deirdre Mongan [35], from Newcastle, Co. Down, is also a wheelchair user and will shortly marry Steve Donnan. The wedding preparations are underway, but how will how will the dress work in a wheelchair?

Sarah and John Paul Fitzgerald are both in their 30s. They’re from Tullamore, County Offaly and have been together for 14 years. Both of them work, enjoy independent lives and have Cerebral Palsy. Recently married, they also have a young child. They don’t see themselves as any different from any other Irish family, but how do people treat them?

In this documentary, we learn about the practical and emotional obstacles faced by our cast of contributors and watch as they live, play, celebrate, and love: taking journeys to create change in both their own lives and the society around them.

Are we really so different or is there something fundamentally human which binds us all together?