Synopsis by Mark Deming
Andrea Dunbar was a British playwright whose work reflected the gritty realities of life in working-class Bradford, West Yorkshire. Dunbar knew of what she wrote -- she grew up in a Bradford housing project, had children by three different men, was a victim of domestic violence, and struggled with alcoholism before she died in 1990 when she was only 29. Andrea's daughter Lorraine Dunbar inherited her gift with language, but also her weaknesses; she also dealt with unhappy relationships with men, worked as a prostitute, became addicted to hard drugs, and served time for manslaughter when her two-year-old son died after drinking her methadone. Filmmaker Clio Barnard set out to tell the story of Andrea Dunbar's brief, troubled life and the neighborhood where she lived and wrote, and The Arbor is a unique mixture of documentary and narrative filmmaking. In addition to interviews with members of Andrea Dunbar's family and residents of Bradford's Buttershaw estates, where Dunbar's plays took place (which are lip-synched by actors to create a distancing effect), the film includes passages from Dunbar's first play, also called The Arbor, played out against the real-life locations where the story is set. The Arbor received its world premiere at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.
Britain, ex-convict, playwright, prostitute/prostitution, working-class