Irish actress Clare Dunne stars in Herself, a harrowing drama about a single mother who, after escaping an abusive partner, aims to rebuild her life in a unique manner. After months of struggling with the welfare and housing systems, she comes upon the idea of self-building an affordable home and, with the help of friends and neighbors, rebuilds her life and theirs from the ground up.
“I just had a friend who was basically in that similar situation,” Dunne says during the Amazon Studios film’s panel at Deadline’s Contender Film awards-season event. “She didn’t go on to build a house like Sandra, but I was inspired by, I suppose, the injustice of it all.”
The pic, which had its world premiere at last year’s Sundance festival, marks the first feature from director Phyllida Lloyd since 2011’s Iron Lady. Lloyd, who previously worked with Dunne in an all-female stage version of Julius Caesar, was impressed by Dunne and co-writer Malcolm Campbell’s approach to the story.
“I felt that Clare was not just speaking to those of us who are lucky enough to feel safe in our homes and might lobby for more justice for women in this, but she was also speaking to the women themselves and offering them a message of hope,” Lloyd says about what drew her to the project.
“Sandra herself was such an indomitable character,” Lloyd adds. “She was not in any way a victim. She was the kind of agent of our own change.”
In the film, Sandra’s journey for independence is bolstered by a substantial offering from Peggy, played by Harriet Walter, the sickly woman she helps take care of and who is also transformed in a way by Sandra’s ambition.
“What I loved is that through the agency of seeing Sandra’s quest to help herself that I think is what puts Peggy really on her side,” remarks Walter, who has also worked with Lloyd in stage productions. “She’s very much in favor of that philosophically.”
Dunne hopes people who watch Sandra’s story will also be inspired by her “do-it-yourself mentality.”
“There’s something so empowering about you having the initiative just to begin something. You don’t necessarily have to know all the hows and whys and wherefores, but just begin and then ask for help. That’s literally helping you help yourself.”
Check back for the panel video.
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