If Herself was a house with cathedral windows, an thatched roof and Greek wall and columns. The reason Herself has two distinct films, and each has merits, they are awkwardly together. Phyllida Lloyd directsthe film, however the film is a credit to its stellar lead actress, Clare Dunne, who is the sole author of the story and screenwriting tasks alongside Malcolm Campbell.
Dunne is Sandra as an aspiring daughter of two who lives within Dublin along with her partner Gary (Ian Lloyd Anderson) A savage and violent brutal brute. Following an unforgivable act brutality in the horrific opening sequence, Sandra and the girls leave the home. This means they are homeless and living in a hotel at the airport as the city council is unable to find them a more permanent place to live and with Sandra having to work two jobs in order to pay the bills. This is the type of furrow in the social-realist style that Ken Loach has been ploughing since Cathy Come Home. And it's a great fit in this film mostly due to Dunne's passionate leading performance, and the two talented youngsters (Molly McCann, and Ruby Rose O'Hara) who portray her daughters.
Sandra's struggle, as well as her violent flashbacks to Gary's violent past, are shockingly interrupted by incongruous flashes of hope.
Perhaps a better likeness is Tom Harper's Wild Rose, because when Sandra discovers the way out of her rut, the tools to accomplish it are, like in the film, offered by a middle-class lady whose home she takes care of. Harriet Walters plays the formidable Peggy Sandra's hero who offers her a piece of land to build her dream home.
This lightbulb for Sandra is the moment when the film starts to split into two. Sandra's struggle, and brutal flashbacks of Gary's violence are interspersed with unorthodox rays of optimism bright musical scenes where Sandra along with a group of friends begin building her new home. A game that consists of two unmatched half-times.