Instead of making a conventional documentary or adapting Dunbar’s play The Arbor for the screen, director Clio Barnard has crafted a truly unique work that transcends genre and defies categorization. Following two years conducting audio interviews with Dunbar’s family, friends and neighbors, Barnard filmed actors lip-synching the interviews, flawlessly interpreting every breath, tick and nuance.
The film focuses in particular on the playwright’s troubled relationship with her daughter Lorraine who was just 10 when her mother died. Barnard re-introduces Lorraine to her mother’s play and private letters, prompting her to reflect on the extraordinary parallels between their lives.
Interwoven with these interviews are staged scenes of Dunbar’s play filmed on The Arbor, the street where she lived.