Phyllida Lloyd, director of 2011’s The Iron Lady, returns to the screen with Herself, a story of survival and motherhood set in Irish suburbia. Proving to be one of Lloyd’s darker, more serious projects, the film follows a woman trying to support her two daughters, having fled from her husband after a brutal attack. With insightful writing paired with a stellar lead performance from Claire Dunne, Herself proves to be a powerful story and a damning portrait of the struggles faced by victims of domestic abuse.
Written by Malcolm Campbell and Clare Dunne, this drama presents a compelling journey of a powerful woman overcoming trauma, poverty and adversity, for the sake of her children. Having fled, Sandra and her two daughters, Molly (Molly McCann) and Emma (Ruby Rose O’Hara), find themselves homeless and running out of money. Following a string of failures in house hunting and as economic pressure starts taking its toll, Sandra decides to take charge, opting to build a house from scratch.
Clare Dunne’s pointed portrayal of Sandra is compelling, brilliantly taking us on the fully formed emotional journey of a determined survivor. From the touching joy of motherhood to the closeups of post-traumatic panic attacks, Dunne’s raw and convincing performance brings a compelling level of authenticity to Herself. The sense of realism complements the film’s clear critique of prominent social issues surrounding domestic violence and the broken housing system, and the result is powerful and deeply affecting. However, despite the impressive acting and a strong premise, the film suffers from feeling rushed; there is a sense of emotional momentum being lost and matters resolving themselves too quickly in the second half. In tackling such a broad array of issues, Herself founders trying to tie together its critique of government and society while fully completing Sandra’s story. By the time the credits roll, the viewer cannot help but feel simultaneously impressed and unsatisfied by the hurried conclusion.
All in all, Herself stands as a heartwarming film that successfully weaves dark social themes with a story of empowerment. Full of both smile-inducing moments and gut-wrenching scenes, it’s an important watch that shouldn’t be missed.
Herself is released nationwide on 16th October 2020.
Watch the trailer for Herself here: