Whether at the helm of a blockbuster like Mama Mia! or deep in the political bowels watching a woman carve out her own way in The Iron Lady, or doing all-female Shakespeare at the Donmar Warehouse, Phyllida Law knows how to marshal her actors and tell a story in a way that holds you. And while this is a tale of domestic abuse, and that threat hangs over the whole story, it is primarily a tale of triumph and becoming.
Clare Dunne (Julius Cesar), who also wrote the script, is this film. She’s at the center of every scene and the strength that binds it all together. Along with two amazing child actors, Molly McCann and Ruby Rose O’Hara, we watch the three build a new life and confidence together. And they are supported by many other solid characters, though Harriet Walter (Killing Eve) stands out in that respect.
Herself isn’t a story I’d expected to be able to recommend in these darker times. But despite its moments of harsh honesty, it is a movie that leaves you with a sense of possibility and joy. And we could all use a bit more of that sense in our lives, with or without a pandemic dragging us down.