IN A NUTSHELL: A big thank-you to Amazon Studios for sending me this screener so I could review this inspiring film for you! This dramatic movie is directed by Phyllida Lloyd, who brought us Mamma Mia! The Movie and The Iron Lady. It features a story of a single mother and her two daughters who escaped her abusive husband only to confront more challenges.
The movie was written by Clare Dunne & Malcolm Campbell. Clare was auditioning for shows in New York City when a friend of hers in Ireland called to tell her that she and her children were homeless. Clare was horrified and couldn't stop thinking about them. She wondered, "What if a woman said, 'I'm going to find a bit of land and build a house. It's just bricks and wood, after all.'" She Googled the words "self-build Ireland" and actually found an Irish architect who had done just that to save money. That was the beginning of this story!
Co-writer Malcolm Campbell stated about the original screenplay that Clare Dunne had written, "It felt like it was a hymn to hardworking women." The producer, Rory Gilmartin, stated, "Working on a low-budget level gives you a certain amount of freedom: you cast creatively rather than with a view to markets."
TIPS FOR PARENTS: Young kids will be mostly bored watching this. You see a woman get beat up with blood. Some profanity, F-bombs, and crude language The movie is an ode to the fierce love of a mother
THEMES: Building - building lives, building a home, building a family, building a community Some social commentary on the broken housing system in Ireland Inner strength, resilience Giving help and receiving it Homelessness Hope Domestic abuse Courage Supportive friendships Being safe Self-reliance: Don't wait for something you want to happen in your life. Make it happen.
THINGS I LIKED: I thought it was cute what the mom told her kids about the birthmark under her eye: that God had her in His pocket and when they were in His art shop, He said he'd have to put a mark on her because there were "loads of Sandra's in Dublin". It was a sweet wink to the audience too to introduce this actress and her unique look to audiences who might not be familiar with her. I loved that the mom had a plan for the girls in case her husband was going to beat her up. Every family should have a code word to use for various emergency scenarios. Americans might recognize a few of the actors: Clare Dunne, Harriet Walter (Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens), Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones), Ian Lloyd Anderson, Ruby Rose O'Hara, and Molly McCann. That's a lot of Irish names. Yes, if you noticed that first name, Clare Dunne, she was one of the co-writers of the screenplay. She's also known for her theater work, including the director's all-female stage version of Shakespeare's Henry IV. She does an excellent job and even has a lovely singing voice. Natalie Holt (Journey's End) composed the score. Cinematography is done by Tom Comerford (Michael Inside). There are some really lovely camera angles and perspectives. Since my trip to Ireland in 2020 was canceled due to Covid travel restrictions, it was fun to see Dublin, where they film the movie. The two young actresses who play Sandra's daughters are totally adorable and did a really great job looking quite natural and real. Kudos to little Molly McCann and Ruby Rose O'Hara. There is a character who begins the movie almost lifeless, but as she serves others, she becomes strong again and sees her own value in the world again. There is a profound lesson there for all of us. There is an appropriate amount of humor to balance the sorrow and struggle. One of the characters explains an Irish term that means when people come together to help each other and receive kindness and support in return, an Irish version of "It takes a village." The storytelling is a great example of "the hero's journey" in literature. Nicely done.
THINGS I DIDN'T LIKE: Sometimes it's hard to understand what the characters are saying because of their thick Irish accents. Much of the film is heavy with sadness and frustration.
You can see the rest of my review on my Movie Review Mom YouTube channel.