Herself is a strong, ultimately uplifting drama about a woman’s escape from domestic abuse that engrosses and empowers. Claire Dunne, who also co-wrote the script, plays Sandra, a Dublin cleaner who escapes the grasp of her violent, controlling husband (Ian Lloyd Anderson) and lives in a hotel with her two young daughters (Molly McCann and Ruby Rose O’Hara).
Being in a state of limbo, having no concrete place to live and worrying about the effect it’s all having on her children, she sets upon an innovative scheme, following a chance discovery online. She will build her own house on a derelict council site with the financial help of one of her cleaning clients – well-off and sympathetic Peggy, played by the great Harriet Walter.
Sandra is also aided and abetted, albeit initially reluctantly, by Conleth Hill’s avuncular builder Aido and her friends, shaping and creating the house from scratch over weeks and weeks. The threat of her husband does not dissipate, however: despite his promises to change, he still wants to control her and uses the children to try and achieve these ends.
Directed sensitively by Mama Mia’s Phyllida Lloyd, this is an often surprising drama, managing to combine gritty social realism with genuine, magical heartwarming moments as Dunne rediscovers and reinvents herself by literally laying new foundations for her future.
Dir: Phyllida Lloyd (15, 97 mins)
Out now in cinemas
words KEIRON SELF