With January usually being the month where movies are placed to be overlooked and never really talked about again in a normal year of theater releases, I was pleasantly reminded that is no longer the case in the year of majority VOD releases. With Herself being released just this past Friday on Amazon Prime, the film absolutely sets the tone for the remaining months of releases heading into award season.
Written and starring Clare Dunne, Herself shows us what a mother is willing to undergo to get away from a terribly abusive husband, keep a job, and raise two young daughters who look up to their mother immensely. Just from that first line of description, I can assure you that if you are not ready for a two hour emotion filled bubble – I’d steer clear of this release. The physical violence that the mother, Sandara, endures is clear and obvious within the first 5 minutes of the film, which is quite shocking. But it is the more subtly placed things that pack a heavier emotional impact. With messages of a patriarchal society and how lower middle class women get stuck in these dreadful circumstances because of it, what Clare Dunne was trying to say with this drama is very clear. We even get more subtle story telling with symbolism of building a structure from the ground up as a mother – by having her literally build a mini home in the backyard of the woman she is taking care of to make money. Even though there were exceptional storylines, there were some stories that didn’t really connect enough for me to fully appreciate what this film had to offer.
With a group of people that come in to help Sandara build her home, we don’t ever get any emotional connection or scenes of relationship building with these characters except for a man named Aido – who is played by Conleth Hill – who freaked me out when I saw him because he also played Lord Varys in Game of Thrones and I’ve never seen him with hair and a beard before. I also was not a big fan of the music cues played throughout this movie. It was directed by Phyllida Lloyd who directed fairly well known movies like The Iron Lady and Mama Mia!. With those two movies in her back pocket, especially the musical, it is clear that she is used to higher budget soundtracks. This movie didn’t feel like it needed a higher budget soundtrack, since it felt like a lower indie to mid-budget film. It was quite distracting to hear famous pop culture needle drops like ‘Titanium’ by David Guetta and SIA during a house building montage. I don’t want to end this on a negative note so I want to give a huge shout out to the eldest daughter in this movie played by Ruby Rose O’Hara. That girl is going to be a star one day.
I’m not sure if we will see this movie in Oscar contention this year, but it did set a pretty decent benchmark for a lot of movies that I have been seeing that are coming this year that seem to be taking on a lot of the blue-collar Caucasian stories. Is this the year that Hollywood tries to bring in the pockets of the average American worker too? I don’t have the answers, but I won’t lie and act like I’m not interested in finding out myself.
Elijah Horton is a Long Island born, Orlando-based writer and photographer. Since he was a kid, Elijah has had a deep passion for movies, music, and photography.
That passion led him to Full Sail where he graduated with a film degree and a desire to make a film of his own one day. For now he’s just pretty good at writing about them.