Imelda Staunton stars as Vera Drake, a woman devoted completely to her working class family. She spends her time caring for her elderly mother and sick neighbour, but also secretly visits women with unwanted pregnancies, helping them induce miscarriage. With this practice illegal in 1950s England, Vera finds her life fall apart when the authorities find out.
The brilliant writer-director Mike Leigh (Topsy-Turvy
, Secrets and Lies
) has crafted an utterly compelling movie about one of the most controversial of topics. An irrepressibly hopeful housecleaner in 1950s London named Vera Drake (Imelda Staunton, Antonia and Jane
, Shakespeare in Love
) mothers everyone around her, from her own family to helpless shut-ins and lonely men living in tiny, isolated apartments. None of these people know that Vera also helps young women get rid of unwanted pregnancies, until the police appear and tear her world apart. Vera Drake
isn't just an inspired character portrait; through simple and straightforward scenes, the movie weaves a quiet but mesmerizing portrait of how people--both wealthy and poor--cope with adversity. Though wrenching, Vera Drake
has too much life to be depressing. Leigh is deservedly famous for his work with actors; every character brims with truth and Staunton's performance deserves every award it could possibly win. --Bret Fetzer