Film review: The Bright side – an upper of a breast cancer film – on living and laughing

What: The Bright Side, directed by Ruth Meehan (Ireland)
Available to view in South Africa: European Film Festival (South Africa) -October 14 -24, 2021
Where: Tickets: No charge – tickets are free Access: The online screening of films are geo-blocked for viewing in South Africa only  

Kate McLoughlin has had it with life. Things are not going swell for her as a stand-up comic – with thirty or so people pitching up at gig. Okay, she is a minor celeb but not exactly raking it in. Then, she gets the diagnosis of breast cancer and it is an advanced cancer. Taken by surprise, she retorts that her breast have always been lumpy. Sounds morbid? Not at all. This is an upbeat and enjoyable film with a sassy protagonist, with a terrific sense of self-deprecating humour. Director Ruth Meehan (also the writer and producer) has injected terrific pace into this coming-of-purpose story. Gemma-Leah Devereux as Kate, as the Irish lass, is fabulous as she navigates her new reality. In the chemo ward, urged to look on the “bight side” and be positive, she unleashes a torrent of biting riposte to the notion of getting “reiki with the angels”. She is soon put in her place and admonished that this is a chemo ward – not a comedy club. 

When I told people that I loved this film, they said, “but it sounds depressing”. I found it enjoyable. There is a light touch to the film, very much in the approach of being #cancerwarriors and the bundle of attendant hashtags #cancercanbeovercome #wecandothis and so on. With the advances with breast cancer treatment, even with advanced breast cancers, there is a great deal of hope and this film feeds into that with a zesty and feisty individual who works through her pain and grief, with humour. One critic opined that there is “nothing new” with this film. Hello, women battle with breast cancer all the time and there are many stories to be told – which inspire others – to keep living. The Bright Side premiered at the Cork International Film Festival and won the Audience Award- deservedly so. It made me smile and I think it will comfort people and care givers, who are dealing with breast cancer.

The Bright Side, is great in raising awareness surrounding breast health and it is timely that it is screening on The European Film Festival, as October is Breast Awareness Month. Early detection is the best bet.  I take this opportunity to urge all women to do regular self-checks. A personal story: In hard lockdown in South Africa, a text came on my phone, alerting me to my annual mammogram appointment – made months before. At that time, we were supposed to only leave home for essential services. I reckoned that my health was essential. Taking a robe (not wanting to don a hospital gown) in Covid, off I went. The unit was empty. I was there and a man who broke his leg. My results were clear. It was a routine annual scan but still, I get anxious every time and I take my check-ups very seriously.  The point is that people have missed out on their annual check-ups because of Covid. Units in private and the public health sector shut down many services. Almost 18 months later and I know many people who have skipped out on their check-ups- because they did not want to go during Rona or the public sector was not available to access. There is no judgement here. I loved the Bright Side because it isn’t a preachy film. There is no judgement in this film. Watch Bright Side. It is an upper– and it is also a call-out to all of us to take of breast health (and yes, men can and do get breast cancer). The film is emblematic of the European Film Festival’s theme for 2021: Healing Journeys. The Bright Side is a lovely, enjoyable film, with a healing vibe. For information on breast cancer, see

Gemma-Leah Devereux as Kate in The Bright Side, directed with tenderness and humour by Ruth Meehan. Images supplied.