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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overwhelming
This is an important movie about the moral dilemma posed by abortion. Abortions, legal or illegal, have always been performed, and women from all social strata, have always found themselves in need of a helping hand, whether the law upheld that kind of help at particular times or not. The movie shows this by juxtaposing the women whom Vera Drake helps, who cannot pay for...
Published on 16 May 2005 by Dorie

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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars those flippin cockney accents!!
Vera Drake was universally loved by the critics on its cinema release.
I was born in 1951 in London, not far from Edgware where this film is set, so even though I was a child I remember what it was like growing up in post war London. I think Mike Leigh has mostly got this just about right, apart from one aspect of it that really annoyed me as the film progressed...
Published on 4 May 2005 by Sevvy


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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overwhelming, 16 May 2005
This review is from: Vera Drake [DVD] (DVD)
This is an important movie about the moral dilemma posed by abortion. Abortions, legal or illegal, have always been performed, and women from all social strata, have always found themselves in need of a helping hand, whether the law upheld that kind of help at particular times or not. The movie shows this by juxtaposing the women whom Vera Drake helps, who cannot pay for abortion, with those who can pay to have an abortion done by a doctor, or by showing that in some cases at least, abortion cannot be totally repudiated. We witness two such cases in the film as one woman becomes pregnant, we understand, after a man forces himself on her, or as another woman, who already has seven children, and whose husband just doesn't understand how consuming this is, cannot have an eighth. The film convincingly shows how women have to deal with their problems in secrecy, in back chambers, and continue to live life as usual and pretend that these things don't happen.

Vera Drake is a kind and generous woman, too kind and too generous, the movie shows, for the world surrounding her, the cruelty of which is encapsulated in the woman who procures "clients" for her, pocketing money from these women without Vera's knowledge, as well as doing Vera the favour of selling her various food products (such as sugar) of which, we understand, there was a shortage in those postwar years.
Imelda Staunton gives an overwhelming performance, exhibiting Vera's kindness, reliability, generosity, naivete, heartbreak, sense of shame, and, finally, despair, with great credibility. I agree with some of the other reviewers who state that the movie doesn't try to take sides. And yet I think that the police detective and the woman police constable's kindness to Vera suggest that they feel sympathy for her and even understand what she did and why she did it. I especially felt that as a woman, the female PC knows that this is a problem all women are in danger of encountering, and this could be a pointer towards interpretation of the movie. I don't know whether this is what the director intended to suggest, but I think that this is something that came across, the way I saw it at least. This is possibly one aspect of the strength of this film, that it allows for this interpretation.
All performances were riveting and convincing, the cinematography superb, the 50s austerity convincingly recreated. As some reviewers have already noted, the film is quite bleak and depressing. It is supposed to be, given the subject that it treats. It is a matter of the viewer coming prepared for a film which tackles a hard to swallow, painful, yet central,social issue. The series of abortions that Vera performs is emotionally draining, though not graphic, and the end is demoralizing. But all the more realistic and powerful in being so.
I highly recommend the film, provided the viewer knows what to expect. It's not meant to be a feel good movie, but a movie to make one think and debate. It may depress you to some extent, but I don't think it will leave you indifferent. Personally, I felt that the film is subtly but convincingly suggesting that there is no use trying to pretend that abortions don't happen / shouldn't happen,won't happen, and that the law and society do not / did not have the compassion necessary to deal with this problem faced by women. You may come to a different conclusion, but the point is that the film is strong enough to provoke discussion and possibly disagreement amongst its viewers.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Emotionally Wrenching Film - Superbly Acted & Directed!,, 14 Jun 2005
This review is from: Vera Drake [DVD] (DVD)
I add my voice to the swell of others who have acclaimed Mike Leigh's powerful period piece, "Vera Drake," as an extraordinary film. Writer-director Leigh, ("Topsy Turvy," "Secrets and Lies"), is one of the most consistent forces working in cinema today, and seems to have a magic touch with his actors, especially when working with morally complex drama. Imelda Staunton, as "Vera Drake" gives one of the most brilliant, and accomplished performances I have seen by an actor on the large screen, and her role is an emotionally wrenching one. The subject matter of this 1950's based drama is highly controversial - abortion. Yet, as difficult as the material is, Leigh and Ms. Staunton are able to make some powerful statements without taking a position. Leigh doesn't delve into the morality aspect of the issue. Instead he explores how the disclosure of Vera's illegal acts impacts the lives of the people who care for her and depend upon her.
Vera works hard as a domestic servant in post WWII London. A tiny woman, she is a bundle of energy and optimism who exudes warmth and compassion. With great sincerity, she unstintingly gives of herself and her time to help others. She continually looks in on family and neighbors, especially the elderly and infirm, to make sure they have what they need. Vera is the backbone of her family, which includes her adoring husband, Stan (Phil Davis), son Sid, (Daniel Mays), a tailor who fancies himself a man about town, and daughter Ethel, (Alex Kelly), a timid factory worker. Vera is their hearthstone, and the person who truly lights up their lives, a solid presence, full of good cheer and the ever present cuppa.
Unbeknownst to those who love her, Vera has been "helping-out young women" for years. She assists them to end their unwanted pregnancies. Vera has never discussed her work with her family, because she sees this as a confidential matter between herself and each woman she helps. I am sure, however, that she is aware of the moral issues involved in her ministries and the social stigma attached to them. The women she treats are from the working class, like Vera, and are either poor and married with too many hungry mouths to feed, or young and unwed. Vera does this work free of charge - and this is important to the storyline. It is implied that she began practicing abortion when she herself became pregnant as a girl and "needed help" herself. She refuses to use the word "abortion" because she does not see that as what she does. The procedure she uses has proved to be reliable and never before caused physical harm to anyone - that is, none of her young women ever needed hospitalization. A supposed friend, who is the middle-person between Vera and these women, has been charging on the sly, saying nothing to Vera, who would not take the fee and would insist on returning it.
Some will undoubtedly look upon Vera Drake as a criminal, others as a voice of hope in the wilderness. What is always clear is that she is sure that she is working for the good. However, when the police become involved, Vera finds herself in serious trouble with the British legal system. An element critical to the story, is that Vera has almost caused a death, and she is devastated when she learns of this. The police are not portrayed unsympathetically, however, although those who judge Vera and the law, itself, appear to be the villains here - at least this is the way Leigh writes and directs the film.
There is an interesting side story which runs parallel to Vera's. The daughter of one of her wealthy employers is raped. She has no idea that the woman who scrubs her Mum's floors can help her, and so goes to a "society doctor." With clearance from a psychiatrist, she is able to obtain an abortion in hospital, illegal though it may be, with no fuss at all. She has the money handy, 100 pounds, quite a bit more than a working girl would ever have at one time, and money and social position, (her dad works for the Defense Ministry), are what it takes to make things happen.
Ms. Staunton, credibly transforms herself from a jaunty, cheerful, loving woman to a bent, aged, depressed and very humiliated person in a matter of hours as the police disturb a family gathering, her daughter's engagement party. Frequently her facial expressions alone communicate a world of words. She won the best-actress prize at the Venice Film Festival, and the film, was named best picture of the festival.
Interestingly, Leigh, who was born in 1943, dedicates the film to his parents, a doctor and a midwife. I am sure he knows and understands the film's subject well.
JANA
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great film from Mike Leigh!, 11 April 2006
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S. K. Horrocks "stevoatash" (Prestwich, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Vera Drake [DVD] (DVD)
A very enjoyable, moving and poignant film which deserves all the plaudits given. Imelda Staunton is superb as salt of the earth Vera, a devoted, hard-working mother and wife who devotes her spare time to "helping out young girls" with unwanted pregnancies. Phil Davis gives great support as loyal husband Stan, supporting his wife through thick and thin. Highly recommended!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vera Drake, 29 Dec 2007
By 
R. W. Polkinghorne (Dursley, Glos United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Vera Drake [DVD] (DVD)
Sublime is probably my nearest adjective. I'm not a film buff, but I do know the casting couldn't be bettered, the acting is world class and the Director deserves every credit the industry awards.
If you don't understand this one, you don't understand film.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars thought provoking, 24 Feb 2006
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This review is from: Vera Drake [DVD] (DVD)
My husband moaned about my choice, but he gave it a chance. He became quieter and quieter, a pin drop would have made us jump. A superb study of time, attitude and the gulf between the classes. What is available if you can pay, the alternative. Dark, gripping, sad,unfair. Has much really changed? My husband took his time switching off the dvd player, took a deep breath and apologised for complaining. We both think it beats anything we have watched in a long time.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mike Leigh at his best, 28 Feb 2006
This review is from: Vera Drake [DVD] (DVD)
Vera Drake is a beautifully told story. The film is shot in a way that seems to capture another period of time so well, and yet links its themes to a contemporary audience. The cast is excellent, particularly Imelda Staunton and Phil Davies. The script is well paced, and the emotional content nicely understated, so that when the dramatic high points of the film are reached, it convinces you of their impact rather than overdramatising them. I wasn't sure if this was going to be a bit drawn out and depressing, but its not, its humanity wins the day and it is well worth seeeing.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars vera drake, 18 May 2005
By 
alan honeybill (stockport, cheshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Vera Drake [DVD] (DVD)
If like me your a fan of Mike Leigh,you'l just love this. the taboo subject of abortion is given the Leigh treatment, as we look in on the Drake family in the early 50;s, when everyone is just glad to have survived the war. Vera( Imelda Staunton),is a good
hearted sole, who goes about helping all and sundry.dispensing tea and good advice. she'S the rock of the family admired and loved by all. However, she has a dark secret, she also helps girls in a predicament, blindly unaware of the consequences should this come to light.inevitably this happens when one of her unfortunates nearly dies from an infection, and when the police come calling, Vera's cosy little world comes crashing down.Staunton's performance is at one heartbraking and naive,and the support cast matchless, especially Phil Davis, who gives a wonderfully understated performance. As usual with Leigh we get to see right inside the family circle, and the painful repercussions are played out in meticulous detail for all to see. The depiction of the period is simply awesome, this is a film lovingly made and acted, and the only possible complaint can be that as usual Leigh imbues the film with the familiar downbeat feeling, not many laughs to be had here! All in all though a wonderful film for the aficianados of good cinema,compared to the usual main stream dross served up relentlessly by the large studios.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Unresolved Question, 20 May 2012
By 
F. S. L'hoir (Irvine, CA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Vera Drake [DVD] (DVD)
"Vera Drake," which lends subtle insight into the plight of women who needed to terminate a pregnancy during the austerity years of 1950's London, is very difficult to rate. On the one hand, the understated performances of Imelda Staunton and, indeed, the entire cast, are superb. The actor playing the husband is especially convincing, as are the sympathetically portrayed detectives and the woman police constable, who treat Vera with kindness. On the other hand, the film is so understated, with very little dramatic tension, that it moves towards an inevitable conclusion, which, in contrast with the slow pace of the film, seems abrupt. It left me with unresolved questions concerning Vera's past as well as her future.

Its message is implied rather than stated in the difference of class: the girl from a wealthy family is able to get around the strict letter of the law with connections, money, and a comfortable nursing home, while girls from the working class had to rely on dubious go-betweens, and they were lucky if they got a woman as scrupulous and good-hearted as Vera (It would have been interesting to discover what sentence the go-between--who, unbeknownst to Vera, has taken money for her services--had received.).

I found Vera's unrelenting tears of helplessness, when she is apprehended, to be both moving and convincing in the context of the era. They are the tears of a hard-working woman, who has always acted from the best motives, to aid girls who had no other options, but whose actions, when brought to light, have brought disgrace on her utterly respectable family.

The theme of "Vera Drake" is as serious as it is sad, but the film is by no means a downer, since its characters are portrayed with such sensitivity and grace.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful performance by Imelda Staunton, 4 Nov 2007
By 
C. O. DeRiemer (San Antonio, Texas, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Vera Drake [DVD] (DVD)
In 1950 London, Vera Drake is a middle-aged, working-class woman who cleans the homes of the wealthy, takes care of her family, looks after her infirm mother...she's a woman who cares for people and seems able to work hard and stay cheerful. She also peforms abortions on young women who "have gotten in trouble." Abortion was illegal then in Britain, and a woman's choice was to bear the child, have an abortion safely and expensively by doctors secretly servicing a well-off clientel, or to take her chances with people who quite likely would use hooks and metal hangers. Vera uses lye soap, disenfectant and water. The women she helps are almost always poor with no one to help, no resources to call on, and whose lives would be devastated without Vera Drake. She's been doing so for years and her family doesn't suspect. She doesn't charge a dime. Her concern is for these young women who have few choices left to them. But one abortion goes wrong. She's caught, and her life and her family start to come apart.

This is a powerful film with an absolutely gripping performance by Imelda Staunton. The film is less about what she does than about who she is and why she does what she does. Staunton is on screen most of the time. She's amazing.

Just about as amazing are the performances of everyone else in the cast. I recognized only three names. Where Britain comes up with actors who are so completely real in their parts is one of the wonders of the world. The actors who play Drake's family, her daughter's fiance, and her brother-in-law and his wife bring so much depth to their roles they just about match Staunton.

The three actors I recognized are Jim Broadbent who briefly appears at the end as the judge hearing Drake's case; Alan Corduner who has a small role as a psychiatrist; and Ruth Sheen who sets up the appointments for Drake. Sheen plays the character as utterly unlikeable, and is such a change from her role sometime ago as the lonely and sympathetic Nurse Carr in the Bramwell series. All three have appeared in Leigh movies before, and Broadbent was Gilbert to Corduner's Sullivan in Leigh's wonderful movie, Topsy Turvy.

This is a terrific movie, a bit long, but you'll enjoy it if you appreciate great acting.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Convincingly - good, 11 May 2006
This review is from: Vera Drake [DVD] (DVD)
I watch this film in great awe with the superb performance of Imelda Staunton as Vera Drake. It depicts the days where abortion is much of a taboo and frowned upon. Vera, the main character, acts as mother, provider and wife to her working class family and at the same time, she assists in carrying out abortion for women who are unable to get help or shamed to what they have done. I like the fact she goes on saying "I am helping the girls" as part of the service! Interesting to note, when it comes to needs as such, there were no differences in classes and the type of ladies she helps. All for different reasons with one aim of termination of the unborn feotus.

The movie is very unassuming and smooth flowing. You cannot help but empathise with the main character. It is, a film, as one would think rather predictable but the way the whole film is done, the tone and the other characters played were very convincing.

It's not a nice film per say but a superb one!
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Vera Drake [DVD]
Vera Drake [DVD] by Mike Leigh (DVD - 2005)
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