Learn more about this title's writer and director in as we put Mike Leigh In the Director's Chair...
Vera Drake [DVD]
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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, Naked) 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
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Vera Drake is by all accounts a wonderful woman who works hard and helps others in her community who are less fortunate, she is liked by all and always has a smile. Vera also helps young women who have found themselves 'in the family way' to end their pregnancies, something which is illegal, but the way we see Vera carry out the abortions shows a very kind and caring woman who genuinely wants to support these women and expects nothing in return.
Whatever the good reasons behind Vera's actions, it is against the law and its heartbreaking to watch as we see the consequences of her work.
Imelda Staunton played Vera brilliantly, and I have to applaud Mike Leigh as this film in someone elses hands could easily have been overly dramatic or soppy but the impact of the story itself is what really makes this great.
All in all, one of the best films i have watched of recent times.
I'm not sure what the classification for this film is however, I would not advise letting minors watching it, a mature subject such as this is possibly best left to mature people.
I think I expected, considering the subject matter, a big exploration of the politics, morals, differences between the classes at the time etc. but I think the point was that we just see it for what it is (like looking through a window into their lives, nothing more) and draw our own conclusions.
There is the other story line of the well-to-do young lady getting an abortion and shows why and how she goes about it and that really makes the film speak for itself, how she is shown to play the system to get the abortion, how difficult it was, the lack of compassion and the expense of it, which the poor could never hope to raise.
I do think the scenes where Vera is arrested, and cries and cries and cries is excessive - I did get a bit bored - (although for those who say she cries out of guilt, I disagreed, I think it's clear from when she is arrested that she fears for her family, having upset them, the shame she has brought on them but it is also very, very clear that she felt a strong compulsion to help those young girls which overshadowed her desire to not break the law).
I think I expected a grittier, more action film (maybe showing how she got into it and a bit more discussion about all the issues surrounding it) and at first I felt disappointed by it but in its own way, its simple, clean way it was a good film and a (mostly) enjoyable one. It's also true to the times it set in which is interesting in itself and the other characters are interesting to watch.
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