DVD: The Arbor (15)

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

"There's no way I'm workin' all week for £27.30 on some bleedin' trainin' scheme," reasoned Sue in Andrea Dunbar's underrated Thatcher's Britain film Rita, Sue and Bob Too (1986).

The brash drama, about a middle-aged man's trysts with two teenagers, was adapted from a series of plays by Dunbar and based on the young writer's experiences of growing up on the Buttershaw council estate in Bradford. The Arbor, directed by Clio Barnard, who grew up on the outskirts of Bradford, is a fierce, moving docu-drama focusing on the decaying Buttershaw estate, Dunbar's short life and the three children she left behind.

Barnard's ambitious, angry and experimental debut film has her largely unknown cast lip-synch to interviews with Dunbar's family. It's the sort of wheeze that could have fallen flat on its face, but it works to tremendous effect here in this look at prejudice, alcoholism, depression, deprivation and abuse.

In 1990, the precociously talented Dunbar died, at the age of 29, from a brain haemorrhage, leaving behind two daughters (Lorraine and Lisa) and a son. The main focus here is on the extremely damaged Lorraine, whose life veered inexorably into drugs, prostitution and imprisonment. The Arbor is a difficult, painful watch, but a very worthwhile (and rather political) one; it should be mandatory viewing for Cameron and his Bullingdon chums.