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Lay Down Your Heart

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An accomplished artist, a lifelong performer and a person with Down syndrome, Niall McNeil has built a unique family tree of blood and chosen relations made up of his closest friends and collaborators. In Lay Down Your Heart, Niall introduces his “family members,” his multiple “children” (some twice his age!), his renowned “ex-wife” and director of the film Marie Clements, and more. Bonded together by their shared creative passion and their relationships with Niall, his family includes some of Canada’s most outstanding theatrical and artistic talent. By exploring his unconventional family histories—sometimes factual, sometimes infused with fantasy, but always deeply felt—Niall’s limitless imagination drives him toward the heart of human connection.

With help from Niall’s chosen sons and daughters, Niall and Marie explore their shared artistic processes. They dive into Niall’s rich, lifelong creative practice as an actor, playwright, painter and musician, and tackle fundamental questions about creativity. What draws one artist to another? What is it about art that has the power to build not just community but also family? How do we collaborate with playfulness and joy? And what happens when you need to fire your “uncle”—twice?

Both an uplifting glimpse into a brilliant creative mind and a testament to art’s power to forge life-changing connections, Lay Down Your Heart is a warm, whimsical welcome into a one-of-a-kind and wholly unforgettable family. With mischievous humour and open-hearted vulnerability, Niall paints a new vision for kinship guided by playfulness, love and unconditional acceptance.

2022, 65 min 48 s

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Portraits Audience Award
International Film Festival
September 29 to October 9 2022, Vancouver - Canada