"The Arbor" is a groundbreaking cinematic achievement. Docudrama director Clio Bernard approaches a dead British playwright's life of persecution and abuse via the lens of situations from her autobiographical plays. When Andrea Dunbarshe died in 1990, at age 29, she was enjoying some theatrical success. The filmmaker obtained candid audio interviews with Dunbar's surviving family members, who still reside in the same impoverished Bradford estate housing where Dunbar lived. Using a technique called "verbatim cinema," Bernard uses professional actors to lip-synch with interview audio so that the spectator receives the information in a strangely organic fashion. The narrative settles on Dunbar's eldest child. Like her mother, Andrea's daughter Lorraine resorted to self-destructive behavior to buffer herself against the cruel racist community around her. Born of a Pakistani father, Lorraine's suffering comes to resemble that of her mother in ways that scream with irony, coincidence, anger, and unspeakable pain. This is one very special film.
Not Rated. 90 mins. (A) (Five Stars - out of five/no halves)