Cinema Review: Herself | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, January 17th, 2021  


Studio: Amazon Studios
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd

Oct 27, 2020 Web Exclusive
Bookmark and Share

Director Phyllida Lloyd changes tack in this uplifting vignette, which echoes Erin Brockovich onto present day Dublin.

Sandra (Clare Dunne) is at a low ebb when we first meet her, having recently escaped the clutches of her abusive ex-husband. She is waiting for the local council to provide her with permanent accommodation, and forced to live in a hotel with her two young children. Add into this a mounting pile of bills, two part-time jobs, and the fact that she still has to take her children to visit their father - her life is a whirlwind of chaos and turmoil.

All of this bubbles under the surface, and after constant knockbacks Sandra decides to take things into her own hands and build her own house - but where to start? She finds the plans online from an architect, but she has no money and crucially no land on which to build.

With the generosity of her wealthy employer and friends new and old, Sandra gets everything she needs to start, but the hard work truly lies ahead. She now has to build the home, whilst being dragged into a hostile custody battle with her ex, all the while keeping the house project a closely guarded secret… quite the juggling act.

This a subtle and well-observed character study from Lloyd, which deftly balances the dark and light elements throughout. The optimism it evokes is never far removed from the brutal truth about the lasting impacts of domestic abuse. But Sandra is a survivor, she takes a lot of setbacks but always manages to pull herself back up off the canvas. Clare Dunne is crucial to this, and puts in performance full of grace and compassion, her Shakespearian pedigree shining through.

Herself is a short and punchy feature that does a lot with the time it's given. This is a great example of prudent filmmaking and gives us a brief snapshot into a world that feels fully formed, and built on layers of well-executed narratives. It deals with its subject matter in a way that doesn’t feel exploitative, and is more concerned in the way that people heal when they’ve been the victim of violence and how that act permeates long after the event.

Most importantly it’s a film about community and mutual support, surely something we all need reminding of in these turbulent times.

Author rating: 7/10

Rate this movie
Average reader rating: 8/10


Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published


Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.