Herself Parent Guide
Superb acting enlivens this thoughtful film about the twin issues of homelessness and domestic violence.
Parent Movie Review
If “home is where the heart is” what happens when you have no home?
Following a violent domestic assault, Sandra (Clare Dunne) fled with her young daughters (Molly McCann and Ruby Rose O’Hara) to the safety of a government-funded room in a hotel by the Dublin airport. Struggling to get her children to school and to make it to her jobs on time, Sandra is desperately seeking affordable housing in a more convenient location. After checking out filthy, sub-standard rent-controlled apartments, Sandra comes up with a solution – building her own small house. But to succeed, she’s going to have to fight the existing welfare system and find people willing to help with this mammoth task.
Herself is more than just a single issue film. Not only does it expose the human cost of a shortage in affordable housing; it also examines in unsparing detail a victim-blaming culture that makes it so difficult for survivors of domestic assault to leave their marriages and get back on their feet. Fighting in court to keep custody of her children, Sandra fires back at the judge, “You sit me in the same room with him, ask me questions like “Why didn’t you leave him?” but you never ask “Why didn’t he stop?’”
With her grit, honesty, and bone-deep love for her children, Sandra is an incredibly sympathetic character. Clare Dunne portrays her with emotional authenticity and is just one of the many superb performers in the film. She is ably supported by Molly McCann and Ruby Rose O’Hara, who are completely convincing and manage to give Molly and Emma distinct personalities and believable emotions – a rarity in young performers. The film’s production values are pleasantly unremarkable. They don’t stand out but neither do they get in the way of the cast.
Not surprisingly, a story about the fallout of domestic assault comes with violent content issues that might be triggering to some viewers. There is a brutal attack involving kicking and stomping that is seen several times in flashback and there is also a shocking criminal act that will gut-punch viewers. Throw in four dozen profanities, and this isn’t a movie that everyone’s going to want to watch.
On the flip side, Herself also comes with some big pluses. It’s a moving depiction of the power and beauty of maternal love and determination. It also speaks to our need for community and is a reminder that it doesn’t just take a village to raise a child; it can also take a village to house one. The best description of the film’s message comes from an Irish term shared by Aido (Conlet Hill), a builder who spends weekends supervising the construction. Celebrating the completion of the house, Aido reminds everyone of meitheal – when people come together to help each other and by doing that are helped in return. It’s a reminder that not only do children need a village but that those of us in that village need each other.Directed by Phyllida Lloyd. Starring Clare Dunne, Molly McCann, Ruby Rose O'Hara, Harriet Walter. Running time: 97 minutes. Theatrical release January 8, 2021. Updated January 8, 2021
Watch the trailer for Herself
Rating & Content Info
Why is Herself rated R? Herself is rated R by the MPAA for language and some domestic violence
Violence: Spoiler warning: There is a scene of domestic violence – man grabs and kicks his wife. Her face is bloody and she’s later seen with a splint on her wrist. The episode is replayed in flashbacks. A house is shown burning. A woman vaguely mentions past domestic assaults. A child’s arm is accidentally cut; blood is seen.
Sexual Content: None noted.
Profanity: There are almost 20 terms of deity and a similar number of sexual expletives. The movie also features three scatological curses and a variety of crude anatomical terms for male and female genitalia.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adults drink beer in a social situation and with meals. Main characters smoke cigarettes at a time of stress.
Page last updated January 8, 2021
Herself Parents' Guide
What challenges does Sandra face after she leaves her husband? What services exist to help survivors of domestic violence in your community?
Canada: Ending Violence: Find Help Across Canada
UK: Women’s Aid: Information and Support
Homelessness is a serious problem in most countries. What can you do to help the homeless where you live?
The Atlantic: How Can the US End Homelessness?
The Right to Shower: 7 Practical Ways You Can Help People Experiencing Homelessness
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Another story about economic precariousness is told in Sorry We Missed You. Set in the UK, this film details a family’s struggle to remain solvent and emotionally connected in a gig economy.
A single mother struggling to become financially independent uses her entrepreneurial skills to provide for her family in Joy.
Domestic violence moves into the realm of the horror genre in The Invisible Man.