Metascore
88

Universal acclaim - based on 10 Critics What's this?

User Score
7.6

Generally favorable reviews- based on 9 Ratings

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  • Summary: 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. (Strand Releasing) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 10
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 10
  3. Negative: 0 out of 10
  1. Reviewed by: Loren King
    Jul 21, 2011
    100
    An innovative hybrid of documentary, staged reading, fictional feature, and confessional, The Arbor defies categorization not merely for art's sake - although its artistry is without question - but because conventional forms seem inadequate for such a harrowing story.
  2. Reviewed by: Ronnie Scheib
    Apr 25, 2011
    100
    Dramatically spellbinding and intellectually stimulating, picture abstractly manipulates multiple layers of representation to shattering effect.
  3. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Apr 26, 2011
    100
    The cumulative impact of The Arbor is one of claustrophobia; at times, the endlessly downbeat adventures of Dunbar and her offspring grow almost unbearably morose.
  4. Reviewed by: J. Hoberman
    Apr 26, 2011
    80
    Barnard makes the psychological mayhem Dunbar endured and inflicted tangible.
  5. Reviewed by: Matthew Nestel
    May 2, 2011
    80
    Andrea Dunbar's portrait here is unforgiving; comparable to Joan Crawford in "Mommy Dearest" or Tobias Wolff's brass-knuckled dad in "This Boy's Life."
  6. Reviewed by: Joshua Rothkopf
    Apr 26, 2011
    80
    The Arbor's pummeling second half begins with the collapse of its celebrity subject; the following spirals of self-destruction make you suspect that some childhoods are simply too hard to escape. Tough, worthy stuff.
  7. Reviewed by: Anthony Lane
    May 7, 2011
    70
    Barnard's film, as if nervous of being felled by the straightforward, sinewy thump of Dunbar's writing, ducks and weaves in a series of sly approaches. [2 May 2011, p. 89]

See all 10 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 1
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 1
  3. Negative: 0 out of 1
  1. Jun 18, 2012
    10
    A prominently powerful innovative documentary film which explores not only life of a writer but also expressed the characters' perspectives toward "life" in such an extreme horrowing way. Everything about this film is so new and has been perfectly mixed that it becomes one of my favorite documentary films of 2010. Expand

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