★★★★½ - STUFF
- A quietly lovely movie that reaches some unexpectedly wonderful places -
In present day Dublin, a woman escapes an abusive, violent husband.
She takes her two young daughters into state-provided emergency housing – mostly rundown hotel rooms – and begins to despair of ever finding even a basic place to raise her family with any stability or certainty.
Then, while searching online for rentals, she stumbles across the plans for a perfectly liveable “tiny house” that she could, maybe, build for herself, with enough room for her girls and the dignity of being able to call somewhere “home”.
But with the government departments and city councils who oversee public housing completely unable to get their heads around the idea of someone finding such a brilliant solution to their own problems and no easily accessible land to build on, maybe Sandra will have to give up on her dream? The hell she will.
With the abusive and manipulative Gary shadowing her life, Sandra surreptitiously assembles a crew of friends and allies who set to work. And so, after a first 20 minutes or so of fast-cut realism and conflict – as Sandra has to fight the social services just for her right to be safe – Herself becomes a film of the possibility of hope. Which is a far more frightening prospect than resignation and despair.
In the lead, Clare Dunne, who also co-wrote the screenplay, is note perfect and endlessly relatable. Meanwhile, Ian Lloyd Anderson (Love/Hate) brings a terrifying believability to the superficially charming and plausible Gary. The veteran Conleth Hill (he was Varys in Game of Thrones, but you will never recognise him) is perfect as the gruff and dubious contractor who signs on to help Sandra build her dream.
Phyllida Lloyd (The Iron Lady, Mamma Mia) directs with perfect economy. She never allows anything to distract us from the story and the people charged with performing it.
This is a quietly lovely film to experience. It is a fable of unplanned victories in wearyingly familiar conflicts. For a film that begins in such grim circumstances, Herself reaches some unexpectedly wonderful places.
- Graeme Tuckett, STUFF
Herself is now playing at Light House Cinema!