Passion for a subject proves you don’t need a big budget in this heart-wrenching short film that every woman (and man) should care about.

I am going to try to stay away from the politics associated with this film and focus this review on a purely filmmaking point of view. Repeal was written and directed by Karl Callan as a passion project with a very limited budget. In fact, it was truly a no budget production with the cast and crew volunteering their time in support of something they believe in. Knowing that, I am impressed with the quality of film that Callan was able to get out of a volunteer team of actors and crew.

Repeal opens with a dolly or perhaps Steadicam shot that follows the feet of a nurse (Maureen O’Connell) through a hospital, introducing a doctor (Aidan O’Sullivan) who is faced with a pregnant patient experiencing complications that could endanger her life. From there the films tells three main stories. The first, is the story of a doctor who is restricted on what he can do to help his patient due to Irish law. The second, a young girl who is forced to order an abortion pill online. And the third, an immigrant who was raped in her country before moving to Ireland and is now being forced to have the child.

Callan draws on real life in this film, retelling situations that have played out within Ireland since 1983 when the 8th amendment was added to the Irish constitution. The amendment severely restricts a person’s right to terminate an unborn child. One real life example was from 2013, the case of Savita Halappanavar, who experienced complications during her pregnancy. The only option to save her life was to abort the baby, but the doctor refused to do it, out of fear of the repercussions. In the end both the mother and the unborn baby died. Repeal does an excellent job of dramatizing this and other stories in a way that the audience can empathize with.

There were a couple of choices the director made that I am not a fan of. The main one is the hand held style of camera work. His attempt was to give it more of a documentary feel. I felt the camera movement was trying to generate a reaction from the audience that the story was strong enough to tell without it. Also, at the end of the film there is a series of women with a black backdrop and various voiceover. To get people involved we don’t necessarily need to be preached to as an audience and I feel the film would have been better suited ending with the scene of the woman’s husband and doctor.

Overall, the film is well worth watching, and I would have liked to see what Karl Callan would have been able to do with a budget for this film, a bit of money spent on a good sound crew for example. But since he didn’t have that luxury I am really impressed with what he was able to do with this film. The fact that he was able to get a hospital to let him shoot in it, and the performances he was able to draw out of the actors is really impressive. If he was able to do this film with the limited resources he had, I think this writer/director is someone we will be hearing much more from in the future.

If you would like to view the film is has been made available online. 

  • Note: There is some slightly graphic content.

Review by Milo Denison, one of the hosts of No Budget.