In a city with more Spires than affordable houses, Herself shows the distance a mother will go to put a roof over her children’s heads.
Unfortunately, we aren’t graced with a new Irish movie as often as we should be, so it is always tense going in to see a new Irish release because there is that chance that it won’t live up to expectations. Herself is the latest Irish release, but does it earn its place in a list of Irish classics? Or will it fall between the cracks and become another forgettable movie?
Herself tells the story of a young mother (Clare Dunne) that escapes her abusive husband (Ian Lloyd Anderson) and fights back against a broken housing system. She sets out to build her own home and in the process, with the help of her two daughters and a few friends, begins to gradually rebuild her life and start again.
Firstly, it has to be said that Herself embraces its Irishness, while still creating a really great story. It never tries to be anything more than a real story about a struggling Irish family that just can’t catch a break. Written by Clare Dunne and Malcolm Campbell, and based on the story of a friend of Dunne’s, you can really feel the honesty in the story.
The second point would have to point out the absolutely fantastic performances by all the cast but especially the leads. Clare Dunne as Sandra is the character the movie spends most of the time with, as it is her journey to move on in her life, so it is imperative to the movie that she is at her top form and there is no doubt here that she is. Dunne manages to create warmth with her daughters and her friends, but a deep, deep sadness when they aren’t around. Fantastic performance. On top of that, the cast overall was great, but the other standout was Ian Lloyd Anderson as Sandra’s ex Gary. Now Ian Lloyd Anderson is probably a lovely man in real life, but I’ve never been scared of a character as much as I am of this guy. Every time he came on screen there was a definite fear felt. That’s a combination of great performances and a great director in Phyllida Lloyd, being able to create such vivid emotions.
There is an interesting subgenre starting to emerge in Irish cinema, as Herself manages to hit on many of the same issues faced in 2018’s Rosie starring Sarah Greene and Moe Dunford. That is of course that they both share many similarities when it comes to the fact that they discuss the struggles families have just trying to find somewhere to live in Dublin. They also share a daughter with Molly McCann playing the family's daughter in both movies.
The only issue that could be found with Herself is in the trailer. One of the major resolutions is seen in the trailer, so if possible, avoid the trailer before seeing, to be completely immersed in the story more, without knowing where it’s going.
Overall Herself is a truly great movie that has definitely found its strengths and used them to its maximum potential. You will laugh and probably cry (I say this because I teared up but never fully cried), but most of all you will feel for this family and all the struggles they encounter. All of this combined creates an unmissable Irish movie.
Director: Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia)
Malcolm Campbell (What Richard Did)
Clare Dunne (Spider-Man: Far From Home)
Ian Lloyd Anderson (Love/Hate)
Harriet Walter (Sense and Sensibility)
Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones)
Cathy Belton (Philomena)
Ruby Rose O'Hara
Molly McCann (Rosie)
Ericka Roe (Deadly Cuts)
Running Time: 1h 37min