The Rutland man whose story was used as the basis of a new film has praised it as “beautiful” and “well-made”.
Tom Ray, of Alsthorpe Road, Oakham, contracted septicaemia in 1999 and as a result, had to have both of his arms, both of his legs and part of his face amputated.
Independent British film Starfish tells Tom and his wife Nicola’s remarkable story and stars Downton Abbey actress Joanne Froggatt and actor Tom Riley in the leading roles. Market Harborough girl Ellie Copping takes the endearing role of the couple’s daughter Grace, who was just two at the time. Nic was also nine months pregnant with their second child, a son Freddy.
It’s released in small cinemas on October 28 and had its British film premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
But on Tuesday, there was a special preview screening for employees of Lands’ End in Oakham, where both Tom and Nic work, and invited guests, including representatives from Rutland County Council and the Mercury. On the same night, it had its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea.
Speaking to the Mercury ahead of the preview, Tom and Nic said they were incredibly proud of the film and the way it depicts Rutland, where much of the film was shot.
Tom said: “Looking at it as a piece of drama, it’s beautiful and well-made and it’s a good film. The music is stunning and the acting is fantastic.
“Of course it’s weird to see your story on the big screen and it is quite heavy on the subject matter. There’s a lot of jeopardy but that is how it was in real life.
“But it is also a joyful film about overcoming the odds and we are proud of that.
“We have been closely involved with the production and the script. It’s had nothing but good reviews from friends and film critics and we are looking forward to seeing the response locally.”
The couple were living in a cottage in Hambleton when the illness struck and Tom says he’s pleased the village that is so close to their hearts appears so well on screen.
He said: “Hambleton is very much a character in the film and it’s a delight to see all these Rutland places people will recognise on a big screen. I love the fact that’s been preserved.”
Tom plays his namesake’s body double and his wife has a small cameo in the film for eagle-eyed viewers.
Nic said she sobbed when she first saw the film, which opens with an idyllic scene and a line on screen reading ‘All of this is true’. But she has now been able to distance herself from it.
She said: “In a way, I’m relieved that Jo Froggatt doesn’t look like me because it’s so much easier to take a step back and objectify it.
“We wanted the film not to be Hollywoodised but to look like a real life couple and Jo and Tom do a fantastic job. It’s very real and raw.”
Tom added: “We will always have this film to look back on over how far we’ve come.”
Speaking about the Busan International Film Festival, Nic added: “This tiny little Rutland story is genuinely going to go global. But locally, we hope it does well because we’re not in a bubble here.”
Introducing the film to his colleagues, Tom told the audience on Tuesday that despite everything he’s gone through, he still feels like the “happiest and luckiest man alive” because he managed to keep his family together. Grace is now 19 and at university and 16-year-old Freddy is a student at New College Stamford.
The couple’s close friend Bill Clark, who is the film’s writer and director, worked for 10 years to gather the funding for the film, which cost more than £1m to make. They all hope the film will raise awareness of sepsis, which kills 44,000 people in the UK every year. To find out more about the signs, visit www.sepsistrust.org.
The film will be shown locally at Stamford Arts Centre, the Regal Cinema in Melton Mowbray and the Phoenix Cinema in Leicester.
To find out more about the film and where to buy tickets, visit www.starfish.film