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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Natalie Gavin
Christine Bottomley
Neil Dudgeon.
Directors
Clio Barnard .
Screenwriters
Running Time
90 minutes

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The Arbor
Unconventional and moving British docu-drama


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Plot
A documentary charting the life of Bradford-born playright Andrea Dunbar, from the performance of her first play to her tragic early death.


Review
The Arbor
Rita, Sue And Bob Too! writer Andrea Dunbar is the subject of this fascinatingly original docu-drama. A single mum living on a Bradford council estate, she penned her first play at 15; her next was made into the hit ’80s film. Yet she died, at 29, in the local pub. By focusing on the children left behind, this paints a desperate picture of wasted talent and a neglectful mum whose addictive tendencies were passed on to her daughter with devastating results. Artist/filmmaker Barnard is daring: actors lip-synch to recordings of Dunbar’s loved ones, while archive footage shows the real playwright. Inbetween, The Arbor is staged on her estate. It shouldn’t work, but it does: an artsy yet accessible insight into working-class life.


Extras

Arbor, The Arbor, The
Released: 14 March 2011
An audio commentary may have been a noodle-twist too far, bearing in mind the film’s voiceovers, but the selection still feels scant. A short film of pony-and-trap racing in the traveller community does offer the sight of the police trying to pull over a horse, so that’s something.


Verdict
Moving, bold, unconventional and impeccably staged, The Arbor is a worthy tribute to a powerfully artistic voice.


Reviewed by Anna Smith

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