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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Rory O’Shea Was Here

Rory O’Shea Was Here

Rory O’Shea Was Here, directed by Damien O’Donnell, was released in the UK in 2004 and was originally titled Inside I’m Dancing. It tells the story of two young men, Michael (played by Steven Robertson) and Rory (played by James McAvoy), both confined to wheelchairs for different reasons, who form a friendship in a residential home and subsequently set out to experience independent living in the community. It won five awards, including the Audience Award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2004. It is loosely based on a real story written by someone who worked for Dublin’s Centre for Independent Living in the 1990s. As there has been increased focus on Mental Capacity and the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards in England since the Supreme Court Judgement in March 2014 sought to set out an acid test for defining deprivation of liberty, this film offers a perfect opportunity to discuss a number of issues raised by the change in application of the legislation. It also provides the viewer with an empathic understanding of the realities of life in a wheelchair, which is both moving and funny.

The Film

Rory O’Shea Was Here opens with Michael seated in the lounge of his residential care home, observing as an accident is about to happen to a member of staff. It then becomes clear that he has very poor speech as a result of cerebral palsy and he cannot make himself understood to warn staff about the hazard he has seen in the room. His frustration is palpable. Michael seems isolated in the home and lacking in a peer group but this all changes when Rory O’Shea arrives with his gelled, spiked punk hair, nose piercing and a punchy attitude that distracts from the truth about his poor prognosis. He introduces himself sarcastically to the other residents as “Rory, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy”, already demonstrating angrily that his identity is defined by his diagnosis. At first Rory mocks and teases Michael, seeing him as the perfectly behaved young man who is popular with staff. However, Rory’s rebellious personality attracts Michael and their friendship takes off when Rory demonstrates that he can understand Michael’s speech better than anyone else. Michael needs him to communicate with the world and finds strength in their partnership, showing his appreciation by copying Rory’s gelled hair style, to the surprise of home manager Eileen (played by Brenda Fricker). Rory, who has ,earlier in life, had the experience of living in the community without a disability, tries to educate Michael in the ways of drinking, meeting women and being free.

As they share more about their lives, Rory learns that Michael’s father is a senior member of the judiciary, who failed to support him financially and abandoned all contact with him because of his disability. As their friendship deepens, Michael learns that Rory has been trying to obtain an Independent Living Allowance (ILA) that would enable him to live in the community supported by a full time carer. Michael accompanies him to a hearing in which Rory is once again unsuccessful in obtaining an ILA. After this, Rory hatches a successful plan to blackmail Michael’s father into providing money for a flat in the community for him. He also engineers the need to be Michael’s companion and communicator as they seek to obtain the ILA, this time for Michael. With that agreed the young men find a suitable flat and then seek a personal assistant who can provide the care they both require. They choose an attractive young woman that they met previously in the pub, played by Romola Garai. She helps to support the men in establishing a home but with some painful romantic consequences for Michael. Rory remains rebellious and confrontational as he battles with a disease that he knows will seriously limit his life span and the ending of the film brings this to a difficult conclusion, with a direct effect on Michael’s own choice about where he finally chooses to reside.


Relevance to the Field of Mental Health

The Mental Capacity Act Deprivation of Liberty safeguards (DOLS) and Best Interests is a very important topic at present. I offer this film as an accompaniment to the recent article published in BJPsych Advances May 2015, 188-195 (abstract) entitled Best Interests, mental capacity legislation and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by Brendan D. Kelly in which the author compares the key principle of ‘Best Interests’ in England & Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland and the similar concept of ‘benefit’ in Scotland, examining how the various legislation is operationalised in each place. The film provides a perfect platform to discuss such issues and the legislation. The film highlights the difficulties of assessing mental capacity when an individual has significant communication problems and very little experience of life outside of a residential care home setting.

Aside from this focus, Rory O’Shea Was Here offers the opportunity to consider what life is like for those people who are confined to a wheelchair, reliant on others for the majority of their personal care. This understanding is important for all students across a wide range of disciplines who are engaged in caring for and working with such individuals.


• More information about Rory O’Shea Was Here can be found at IMDB, as can a short trailer.

Rory O’Shea Was Here is available to purchase and stream from

•  Thanks to my OT colleague ZC for this film recommendation.

• Minds on Film is written by Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Joyce Almeida



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About this blog


Minds on Film is a monthly blog that explores psychiatric conditions and mental health issues as portrayed in a selection of readily available films.

Please note that this blog may contain plot spoilers. Any views expressed are purely my own.

Dr Joyce Almeida
Dr Almeida is a consultant
psychiatrist working in the private sector in the UK.