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Soundtrack review: Sanctuary (Joseph Conlan – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Sanctuary (Joseph Conlan – 2017)



“Sanctuary” is an Irish romantic comedy Sanctuary. Directed by Len Collin, the film features a cast of actors with intellectual disabilities, telling a heartfelt tale of love against the odds. Care worker Tom (Robert Doherty) is tasked with taking a group to the cinema, but his charges disappear and to explore freedoms that most of us take for granted, such as shopping on one’s own, or going for a drink in a bar. In the main storyline, Larry (Kieran Coppinger), who has Down’s Syndrome and Sophie (Charlene Kelly) who has epilepsy, try to spend some romantic hours together, but laughter and tears make strange bedfellows. Joseph Conlan wrote the score.

As far as ethnic sounds go, the Celtic one is by far my favourite so whenever I see an Irish theme in a movie or TV show and and Irish composer there is a slight hope in the back of my mind that I might get to hear that unmistakable Celtic longing and the beloved instruments like bodhran or violin. Even if it has none of that, the opening theme “Sanctuary” charms me and wins me over with the sweetest and most melodic piano motif, optimistic and sunny. My worries with comedy scores are multiple as I often have a hard time connecting with slapstick or monkeying around music; luckily Joseph Conlan keeps his comedic cues simple and playful with the light guitar and I am enjoying the music. The same light guitar provides the mood for the more dramatic and serious pieces like “Emergency”; I find a sort of comfort zone in the way the music is played since I am a huge fan of Rob Simonsen’s minimalistic style and “Sanctuary” often sounds similar I like how the guitar is also used for the more action oriented moments like “Don’t let me down”; the combination with melodic chimes makes me want to go and play with my child. I like how the composer improvises and uses other sounds as well to make the cues more interesting.

A score like this works very well also because it’s short: 25 minutes or at least, under half an hour is a sweet spot for a composition as light and this as it is my threshold between enjoying it and starting to drift of; I am having fun hearing the playful guitar or experimental sounds and ultimately the music puts me in quite the good mood and keeps a smile on my face. Joseph Conlan writes his own brand of funky sound and avoids getting generic or superficial; with whimsical and romantic cues like “Most special thing” and “Tom looks for Rita” the emotional palette of “Sanctuary” is meaningful and and standalone listening experience rewarding. Even without any Celtic vibe in it I got more from this score than I was expecting.

Cue rating: 81 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 8 / 25

Album excellence: 31%

Most Special Thing
Tom Looks for Rita
But I Love Her: Sanctuary

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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