Many of you will know Phyllida Lloyd’s previous work, whether it involves singing and dancing to ABBA songs in her smash hit debut, Mamma Mia, or she’s directing Meryl Streep towards her third academy award in The Iron Lady. Now Lloyd has directed her third, and arguably, her best film with, Herself.
(Director Phyllida Lloyd at the LFF premiere of Herself)
The film tells the story of Sandra, a mother of two young girls, but also the wife to an abusive husband. After he discovers her plan to escape, he beats her badly, causing nerve damage to one of her hands.
Now temporarily living away from him in a distant airport hotel room, Sandra needs to find a more convenient home for her and her kids to start anew. However, nothing good is in her price range, however if she builds the house, then it may be possible.
Written beautifully by the film’s star, Clare Dunne, Herself’s biggest strength comes from its surprisingly perfect balance of light and dark tones. Often a film such as this would either commit to being dark and gritty, or light and glossy, Herself does not do either.
(Producer Sharon Hogan at the LFF premiere of Herself)
The film respects its very serious and socially relevant themes by not shying away from or glossing over its dark subject matter. In doing this, not only is respect made to the real victims of this crime, but the film also gives us a true sense of the stakes involved in Sandra’s situation and thus we root for her even more because of it.
As well as this, when lighter moments happen, or things start to go our protagonists’ way, these moments feel earned and thus make the film feel all the more satisfying.
This balancing of tones is the work of a well written script and confident direction; however it is also the work of the exceptional cast and their performances. Conleth Hill and Harriet Walker are great in the film however it is Clare Dunne as Sandra that steals the show alongside her on screen children Molly and Emma, played brilliantly by little Molly McCann and Ruby Rose O’Hara respectively.
Overall, Herself is an important story with heavy themes that the film neither exploits nor glosses over. With a strong cast, a great script from Clare Dunne and assured and confident direction from Phyllida Lloyd. Herself is a feel good film done right and that does its subject the justice it deserves.
(Director, Phyllida Lloyd and Producer, Sharon Hogan at the LFF permiere of Herself)