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Andrea Dunbar was described as a genius straight from the slums. The unflinchingly honest playwright wrote about her distressing upbringing on the Arbor, the notorious Buttershaw Estate in Bradford, UK. When she died tragically in 1990 at the age of 29, Andrea left behind her plays and three children by three different men. Although Lorraine, Andrea's oldest daughter, acquired a knack for writing, she was unable to avoid a grim fate of her own. This documentary follows Lorraine and her other siblings on a powerful journey of reflection and self-discovery as they begin to understand the struggles their mother faced.
"The Arbor" is as interesting a film as it is a tragic tale. Unique in every sense, the film uses actors who are lip syncing the words of real people who are being interviewed about the life of playwright. It made sound different but oddly enough it is very effective as well.
If you've seen Alan Clarke's wonderful "Rita, Sue and Bob Too!", you'll have some idea of what to expect from 'The Arbor'. "The Arbor" is a small part of the Buttershaw Estate in South Bradford where Clarke's film was set. Clarke's film was adapted from her own play by Andrea Dunbar, a 20 year-old single mother in 1982 when the play first appeared. She had written her first play also called 'The Arbour' when she was still at school and a third, 'Shirley', in 1986 before she died suddenly from a brain haemorrhage aged just 29. Seeing the film isn't going to be much help with this film because this is a documentary about Dunbar and her personal legacy that turns out to be mainly about the equally difficult life of her first child, Lorraine. To go too deep into what the film reveals is only going to ruin it for those wanting to see it, it's best to just know the basics here.
The way Director, Clio Barnard put the film together might raise some questions on how well it tells the story but those fears will be quickly dismissed once the film begins. "The Arbor" might be something to celebrate over since it tells the story of a very talented writer but her short life contained too much heartache and in the end the tragic death of Andrea makes the film a sad, at times hard film to watch. A gritty, emotional and captivating film that has received major acclaim and for good reason. Even if you're not familiar with Andrea or her work I still highly recommend checking this out. Technically this a very well put together film and story wise it's not easy to at times to watch and there's certainly no happy end to this talented woman's journey but I think it's an important body of work. An incredible film experience that is a must-see. You can order the DVD HERE.
Released by Strand Releasing
**** Out Of *****