The Arbor
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Instead if 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… More

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"Numerous celluloid experiments have fudged reality and fiction lately, but few are as formally inventive or socially revelatory as The Arbor."
‑ Ronnie Scheib, Variety
"Barnard's boldest move is to unveil the irresponsible chaos of the playwright's private life, and to make us wonder if the art was worth the suffering, after all."
‑ Anthony Lane, New Yorker
"What emerges is a curious mix of avant-garde technique and social-realist case study, equally indebted to Barnard's art-world-video background and Dunbar's own close-to-the-bone writing."
‑ Nicolas Rapold, Film Comment Magazine
"Documentaries often toy with the conventions of non-fiction storytelling to the detriment of their content, but Clio Barnard's innovative The Arbor provides a welcome exception to the norm."
‑ Eric Kohn, indieWIRE
"The format suggests such films as "Synechdoche, New York" or "American Splendor," but Barnard has gone beyond them, also instilling a theatrical element befitting her subject."
‑ Laura Clifford, Reeling Reviews
"For the morbidly curious, it's mesmerizing. But it's also a singularly watchable story for the strange, and strangely fitting, way in which it's told."
‑ Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post
"Brings the Dunbar story to life through a technique known as "verbatim theater," in which actors lip-synch testimony from the real people they're portraying."
‑ Scott Tobias, AV Club
"This is a fiercely intellectual piece of cinema that still manages to grab your heart and punch you in the gut."
‑ Amber Wilkinson, Eye for Film
"British Poor Adrift in Turbulent 'Arbor'"
‑ James Verniere, Boston Herald
"It's an even handed and responsible profile that recognises the playwright's important contribution to British theatre without turning away from the vulnerable and flawed human being that she was."
‑ Ed Whitfield, What Culture
"[An] exquisitely crafted docudrama."
‑ Loren King, Boston Globe
"Tough, worthy stuff."
‑ Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York
"...riveting stuff, all the more so since it's "real.""
‑ Josh Larsen, LarsenOnFilm
"The only weakness in this captivating film: too much screen time given to the trials and travails of Dunbar's half-Pakistani daughter, Lorraine, a heroin addict still suffering from the disinterest of her late mum."
‑ Gerald Peary, Boston Phoenix
"The film's strange way of meandering off its original topic is never resolved, but even with its deficiencies The Arbor is always intelligent cinema."
‑ Sean Gandert, Paste Magazine
More reviews for The Arbor on Rotten Tomatoes