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Clio Barnard's biographical documentary gives a multifaceted portrayal of British dramatist Andrea Dunbar and her family.
Andrea Dunbar grew up with seven siblings in suburban housing estate Bafferton Arbor in Bradford, England. At the age of 15 in the early 1960s she began writing her first play "The Arbor" which described the experiences of a pregnant teenager who was abused by her drunken father. Her first play had it's premiere at The Royal Court Theater in London 1980.
Through interviews with family members, neighbours and colleagues, this genre varied documentary/theater setup/feature film depicts the short though momentous lifetime of playwright and mother of three Andrea Dunbar (1961-1990), centring on the strained relationship between her and her daughter Lorraine. "The Arbor" is eminently directed by English filmmaker Clio Barnard who with characterizing close ups and subtle camera movements creates sharp and prominent portraits of men and women. The color harmonic cinematography from Ole Bratt Birkeland interacts and forms strong contrasts to the overt stories and the unwitting mood which is partially relieved by the theatrical and vibrant scenes which recreates parts of the playwright's debut performance "The Arbor" from 1977. Even though the acting is vivid and expressive in the earlier mentioned scenes, the film is most convincing in the interview scenes where lip-sync was used by professional actors. The pace varies in accordance with the takes shifting length and the versatile narrative makes this gripping character portrait an archetypal full-length documentary debut where faith plays a central part.
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