Herself: BFI London Film Festival Movie Review
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Starring: Clare Dunne and Harriet Walter
Content Warning: Domestic Abuse, PTSD, Violence, Anxiety attacks
See more of our BFI London Film Festival Coverage here.
Herself is an honest portrayal of domestic violence, but also an uplifting and inspiring tale about a Mother’s devotion and love for her children. Directed by Mamma Mia’s director Phyllida Lloyd, Herself is not the easy-going film you would come to expect from this director. However, it will leave you feeling optimistic and determined that anything is possible.
Lloyd does not shy away from showing the abuse, both the physical and psychological, that Sandra (Clare Dunne) faces at the hands of her husband. We see the effect this has not just on her but on those around her, especially her two young children. She flees their home and finds herself stuck in the broken housing scheme that should be helping her. Herself is a stark look at the reality that those who are seeking help/ shelter from abusive relationships face. Clare is desperately seeking a more stable home for her and her kids, finds a solution, in a “build your own home” kit.
Fighting an unjust system
Working two jobs, juggling the children in a small hotel room and having to face her husband for scheduled visits it is easy for us to champion and rally with Sandra. We want her to succeed, we want stability for her and the two kids. We feel the righteous anger at this system that should be helping her and keeping her safe, that just lets her down at every turn. There is a particularly powerful scene in a courtroom that will have you filled to the brim with indignation.
Sandra is desperately seeking a more stable home for her and her kids, finds a solution, in a “build your own home” kit. However building a house, even a compact Skandi-style house still costs money, skills and ‘manpower’, all of which Sandra does not have. Although, what she does have, is a kind heart and a dedication to her kids that is blinding. And the people around her, recognise that.
Keep the faith
Things start to fall into place- thanks to the kindness of strangers it is not just physical foundations that start to be laid, but also the foundations of new friendships. Whilst at its core, Herself is a “feel-good’ film, no punches are being pulled there are scenes that will stop you in your tracks. However, what we are seeing is the good of others and that we should keep trying to move forward and keep hopeful.
Herself leaves you feeling like anything is possible with some determination and a bit of hope. It reminds us to be kind to others and the family comes in all shapes and sizes. Herself has a lot to say all of which is said loudly and without preamble.
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