A new Irish drama from Phyllida Lloyd (The Iron Lady) finds an empowering, even communal spirit from domestic strife.
An intimacy is felt in Herself, as well as the kind of social realism dealt with in the oeuvre of Ken Loach. A melodrama unfolds with wavering tone and elements to keep the narrative on its protected path.
Without much of a didactic or maudlin side, a precarious situation is set up for Dublin-based Sandra (Clare Dunne). The latest physical outburst from husband Gary (Ian Lloyd
Anderson) leaves her with a black eye and crushed hand; and, leaving with her shaken, adoring daughters Molly and Emma (Molly McCann, Ruby Rose O’Hara).
In the screenplay partly concocted by Dunne (known mostly as a theatre actress having worked with Lloyd there before) conflict will result from a DIY housing start-up as reasonable properties aren’t accessible. Being in a hotel near the airport isn’t ideal for the mother who waitresses at a pub and cleans for Peggy (Harriet Walter) who offers land behind her home. A construction handyman Aldo (Conleth Hill – remembered from ‘Game of Thrones’) will act as a supervisor for a friendly bunch to get going on this foundation.
It might be reaching to come up with the Kevin Kline starrer Life as a House but there is a certain metaphor that could be applied within the melancholy, wit, hardship and triumph on view. Dunne brings much vigilance and vulnerability to a victim of the ‘system’ as a secret project leads to repeated confrontations with the implacable ex. She has a convincing rapport with her sharp younger co-stars in McCann and O’Hara.
Herself may be a deceptive moniker through Dunne is the persuasive pivotal figure with inviting support from Walter (effective in the series Killing Eve) and the congenial Hill. In angling through a genre and issues often probed on the small-screen the grounded events carrying the drama may not yield the kind of gratifying conclusion from a courtroom setting with demanding visitation rights on the line. Still, if the plot lacks some needed shading the output of characters who have to face more anguish than they would wish delivers the kind of feeling of a personal, almost semi-biographical account.