Herself

 

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Ground down by the social system, one woman plots her own destiny to literally rebuild her life. 

 
Herself

  

The idea behind Herself came from the film’s leading actress Clare Dunne and its director Phyllida Lloyd. They were working on productions of Shakespeare for women’s prisons when Clare Dunne was inspired by a friend’s predicament of being homeless in Dublin with three children, an all too common experience for single women forced into hotel accommodation. Thinking of a way in which such a woman could escape the confines of a limited existence, Dunne had the idea of self-building a property on the cheap. That formed the basis of the screenplay for Herself, which Dunne then offered to Lloyd.
 
The director insisted that Dunne play the leading part of Sandra, a woman desperate to leave her abusive husband Gary (Ian Lloyd Anderson). Working as a cleaner for a grumpy but well-to-do older woman Peggy (Harriet Walter), she asks if she can use her large back garden in which to build her own property. Having found a site, she then needs to borrow the money to fund the building but the local council are not interested, even though she will ultimately be saving them the cost of housing Sandra and her daughters in hotels. Gradually she finds friends and others who rally round and help build her dream home, but it’s not without a fight and a custody battle.
 
On the surface this may seem a rather ordinary story with a pat ending, but that is far from the truth. In her acting, Clare Dunne imbues the character she has created with passion, understanding and a determination that is extremely moving. The abuse is not overly dwelt upon, but just enough for us to realise that Sandra needs to leave to protect her children. There are fine and quirky performances all round, including Harriet Walter as her benefactor, Conleth Hill as local builder Aido (who initially thinks she’s mad), and Molly McCann and Ruby Rose O’Hara as Sandra’s two young daughters.

 

MICHAEL DARVELL

 

Cast: Clare Dunne, Harriet Walter, Conleth Hill, Ian Lloyd Anderson, Molly McCann, Ruby Rose O’Hara, Cathy Belton, Ericka Roe, Sarah Kinlen, Lorcan Cranitch.

 

Dir Phyllida Lloyd, Pro Rory Gilmartin, Ed Guiney and Sharon Horgan, Screenplay Malcolm Campbell and Clare Dunne, from a story by Clare Dunne, Ph Tom Comerford, Pro Des Tamara Conboy, Ed Rebecca Lloyd, Music Natalie Holt, Costumes Consolata Boyle.

 

BBC Films/British Film Institute/Element Pictures/Merman Films/Screen Ireland-Picturehouse Entertainment.
97 mins. Ireland/UK. 2020. US Rel: 30 December 2021. Cert. 15.