The true story of playwright Andrea Dunbar who wrote about her upbringing on the notorious Buttershaw Estate in Bradford. When she died, tragically at the age of 29, her daughter Lorraine was just ten years old. The Arbor catches up with Lorraine in the present day, ostracised from her mother’s family and in prison undergoing rehab. Through interviews we learn that Lorraine saw her mother as a destructive force throughout her childhood; an alcoholic who let her suffer abuse and whom she blames for all that is wrong in her life. A truly unique blend of documentary and fiction.
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Clio Barnard's The Arbor is an excellent documentary avoiding the traps of conventional documentary filmmaking. The director's aesthetical choices, however, do not bury the human aspect under the weight of a stylish or experimental approach. The narrative, shifting from Andrea Dunbar to the sad life of her eldest daughter is very clever. The last (archive) images are also touching, showing another face of Dunbar.
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