Herself: Director Clare Dunne about her Exploration of Domestic Violence

Writer-Star Clare Dunne Explores Domestic Violence in “Herself”

 

Clare Dunne Photographed by Christian Tierney
Photographed by Christian Tierney

 

After five years of working on the script for Herself by herself, Clare Dunne became determined to get her movie made.

Herself follows Sandra (played by Dunne), a willful young mother of two who leaves an abusive relationship and, faced with Ireland’s housing crisis, decides to build her own home. Dunne’s grounded performance makes every scene seem achingly relatable.

Starting in 2014, Dunne — then a stage actor in London — studied Ireland’s housing shortage, met with Women’s Aid, the Irish agency working against domestic violence, and secured development funding from Screen Ireland.

But by 2018, The Iron Lady helmer Phyllida Lloyd, who had worked with Dunne on an all-female Shakespeare trilogy, had signed on to direct, with Irish banner Element Pictures set to produce.

At Lloyd’s urging, Dunne had agreed to star but found it difficult to finish the script while prepping for the role. Co-writer Malcolm Campbell was brought in a few months before the five-week Dublin shoot.

Dunne says, “I realized that I was like Sandra. I was building a film, and she was building a house. She had to ask for help and accept it. I kind of had to do that myself.”

Dunne (left) and actress Ruby Rose O’Hara, who plays one of her daughters, in 'Herself.'
Pat Redmond/Amazon Studios
Dunne (left) and actress Ruby Rose O’Hara, who plays one of her daughters, in ‘Herself.’

The Royal Welsh College alum ascribes her DIY attitude to her mother and father, a family resource center worker and an office logistics manager, respectively, — who were young parents to six daughters, Dunne being the eldest.

Dunne’s parents were on hand for the 2020 Sundance Festival premiere of Herself. Amazon Studios later acquired the movie, granting a December 30 awards release with a January 8 bow on its Prime video service.

Herself  has become even more relevant during the pandemic, as reports of domestic violence have increased worldwide.

Dunne is joining a clique of talented U.K. and Irish female actor-writers, which includes Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Michaela Coel and Sharon Horgan (a producer on Herself).

As an actress, she has upcoming roles in Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel and the prestige Irish TV drama Kin, but all along, she has continued to write projects intended for stage and screen.

She says: “A film is a big, long journey, so I have to be sure about the next one I write.”

Clare Dunne Photographed by Christian Tierney
Photographed by Christian Tierney

She claims her movie is targeted “not just at all of us who want to be more aware, but at the people themselves that are in a situation where they feel powerless.”

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