Andrea Dunbar grew up in a tough-as-nails housing project in the North of England (the “Arbor” that gives Clio Barnard’s film its name) and died in 1990, at the age of 29, of a brain hemorrhage helped along by her alcoholism. She was also a gifted playwright, who drew deeply on her own life and most immediate experiences. Barnard’s gritty, stylish, and heartbreaking biopic is really an extension of Dunbar’s own work.
Barnard took the unorthodox step of interviewing members of Dunbar’s family and social circle, and having her cast sync their performances to the audio she recorded. The approach works, and gets us remarkably close to the bone, and the very sad story of Dunbar’s daughter, Lorraine, brings the film full circle.
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