TorinoFilmLab - Training, development, Funding


Back to the Coast

Philip Kelly



Maria is content with her life in Belfast. She sings in a covers band, making enough money to support her and her two children. However she still aims for her big break in the music industry. With that in mind she makes the difficult decision to end an unplanned pregnancy.

Attending Northern Ireland’s only legal abortion clinic forces Maria through an abusive gauntlet of pro-life campaigners. She pushes through but is clearly shaken by the experience. Soon after she receives an anonymous letter. You murdered your child. You don’t deserve to have children. You don’t deserve to have a life.

The threats continue and escalate but with no help from the police Maria struggles to find someone she can trust. Feeling she can no longer protect her children in their own home, they flee to the holiday town of Portstewart, seeking refuge with her sister, Anne, at their family run guesthouse.

Portstewart does not offer the safety she hoped for. The stalker continues his attacks and returning to her hometown forces Maria to face a past she had tried to leave behind. Starting to see visions of her schizophrenic mother, Maria starts to question her own sanity and if her stalker is real or imagined.


My ambition with this adaptation is to create a compelling thriller with themes of motherhood and the thin line between sanity and insanity.

The original book is a crime novel, but touches on some interesting themes concerning family history, motherhood and the moral issues surrounding abortion. For the film adaptation I wanted to focus on these themes and accentuate them. As a result I feel the film has moved into the realm of psychological thriller and in some aspects straight horror.

Quite early in the adaptation process I decided to move the story’s location from Holland to Northern Ireland. This has not only allowed me to write about a location that was more familiar to me, but also allowed more scope for the topic of abortion to be explored. The Marie Stopes Clinic in Belfast has been laid siege to by anti-abortion campaigners since the day it opened. The experience of having to attend this clinic pushes Maria to further question her difficult decision, the consequences of which make her question her sanity, and if she is following in the footsteps of her mother’s psychosis.

As in the book, Maria will be the central character and the story of the film will be portrayed from her point of view. As the story progresses and Maria starts to question her own sanity it is important for me that the film plays with the concept of the unreliable narrator. In the novel the reader is pretty assured that Maria is not succumbing to the same psychosis her mother did, but in my adaptation I would like to plunge the audience further into the story and mind of Maria, so they are as unsure as she is.

Finding the balance between a thrilling plot and the complex themes will be important. Maria will strive to protect her children throughout the story while the entire time questioning if she is doing the right thing. Wondering if you are making the right decisions for your family is something all parents will be familiar with. I would aim for audiences to feel conflicted about some of the decisions Maria has to make, but all the time empathizing with her role as single mother.

Set against the harsh and beautiful landscape of the Northern Ireland coast I feel an exciting, scary and thought provoking story can be told. Do we really know our family and ourselves? What makes us who we are? What lengths will people go to for what they believe is right?


How well do you know your family? How well do you know yourself?
Philip Kelly

Film Director

production notes

written by
Philip Kelly