Date: 2 November 2004
Summary: Captivating Central Performance Amidst Period Detail
"Vera Drake" makes us realize how few of the classic kitchen sink,
working class dramas of post-war Britain, whether in film or theater,
were from the viewpoint of women ("Georgy Girl" and "A Taste of Honey"
were among the few). Oh, girlfriends got knocked up in those works, but
they were always seen as manipulative strangleholds to the freedom of
the Angry Young Men; they should just take care of it. Check for other user comments.
With exquisite attention to complete period detail in body language,
coloring, clothes, physical surroundings, etc. that fill the screen as
much as he did theatrically in re-creating "The Mikado" in "Topsy
Turvy," Mike Leigh takes us to the other side of that doorway that the
older movies rarely showed us, (though in the '60's the original
"Alfie" and the schmaltzier Hollywood "Love with the Proper Stranger"
gave us an exaggerated view). The film also works in tandem with Peter
Mullan's "The Magdalene Sisters" in showing how cruel life in Ireland
and Britain could be for women with unwanted pregnancies, though
evidently this film is not a docudrama.
This complete mise en scene (including contrasts with the upper crust
families she works for as a domestic) very gradually gives us the
matter of fact quotidian of Drake's mundane life of caring for her
family and the neighborhood unfortunates, including girls she "helps
Imelda Staunton's self-effacement into the role and her character's
into her environment doesn't prepare us for how she comes to completely
Leigh created a similar working class world in "All of Nothing," but
that film had no trajectory, virtually nothing happened to those
characters, and none of the characters were as completely sympathetic
as naive Drake is. It is wonderful to see a character actress get to
fill the screen for long, emotional close-ups. The audience in the
almost sold out theater I was in was completely gripped in silence and
holding their breath as her life played out. Too bad the hot subject
matter of abortion will probably keep her from getting an Academy
Because of the vivid realism in the film, it is frustrating that there
is no factual information provided, for example, as to when abortions
became legally available to all women in Britain. A few facts are
thrown out about enforcement and consequences, but those are anecdotal,
though the class differences are portrayed vividly.
One is left with complete sadness that for all the specificity of time
and place in the film, we could easily go back to a time like this when
abortions are illegal and unsafe, because there will always be women
who feel that is their only option, whether single, married, poor or
rich. The past is prologue to the future.
- I have seen this movie and would like to comment on it
Message BoardsDiscuss this movie with other users on IMDb message board for Vera Drake (2004)
If you like this title, we also recommend...
Godfather Trilogy: 1901-1980, The (1992) (V)
Show more recommendations
Add a recommendation
Email this page to a friend