Sundance Review: HERSELF Is A Very Fine Indie Drama™
Herself is a perfectly fine film. If you happen to see it (and it just got picked up by Amazon, so you’ll get your chance), chances are high that you will enjoy the film because it is very well made and makes you feel good. But if you watch a lot of indie dramas, it will also feel very familiar, to the extent that it almost feels disposable. There are so many amazing movies out there; it is difficult to recommend spending your time with this one, capable as it is.
The Irish drama focuses on Sandra, a hard-working mother of two adorable daughters whose life explodes after a violent attack from her abusive husband. Working two jobs and relying on government assistance to keep her family in a shitty hotel, Sandra happens across the idea of building a house with her own two hands.
Well not her own two hands. Part of what makes Herself so easy to watch is how easily things come to Sandra. Obviously her abuse is traumatic, and late-film struggles with the government and her ex offer dramatic roadblocks. But this inspirational story only happens due to the kindness of others, to an extent which feels exaggerated and diminishes the accomplishment somewhat.
Sandra gets her land for free, along with a loan from a friend for materials. She talks a contractor into volunteering an untold number of weekends on the projects, along with some friends who also bring a group of their friends. It’s a wild amount of kindness and luck on display. You won’t believe any of it.
But that’s where the charm comes in. Sandra’s group of helpers are rather thin but remain easy to like and contribute to the overall feel-good nature of the film. We aren’t really supposed to examine how realistic it all is.
Herself does have some things to say, particularly about abuse and the way legal systems can punish victims when it should be helping them most. It’s not an empty movie, just a slight one offering little we haven’t seen before. You won’t regret watching it, but you likely won’t remember it either.