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Vera Drake (2004)

cover Directed by
Mike Leigh

Writing credits
Mike Leigh

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Genre: Drama (more)

Tagline: Wife. Mother. Criminal.

Plot Outline: Abortionist Vera Drake finds her beliefs and practices clash with the mores of 1950s Britain--a conflict that leads to tragedy for her family. (more) (view trailer)

User Comments: Captivating Central Performance Amidst Period Detail (more)

User Rating: ********__ 8.1/10 (322 votes) Vote Here

Cast overview, first billed only:
Imelda Staunton .... Vera
Richard Graham .... George
Eddie Marsan .... Reg
Anna Keaveney .... Nellie
Alex Kelly .... Ethel
Daniel Mays .... Sid
Philip Davis .... Stan (as Phil Davis)
Lesley Manville .... Mrs Wells
Sally Hawkins .... Susan
Simon Chandler .... Mr Wells
Sam Troughton .... David
Marion Bailey .... Mrs Fowler
Sandra Voe .... Vera's mother
Chris O'Dowd .... Sid's customer
Adrian Scarborough .... Frank
  (more)

Also Known As:
Untitled Mike Leigh Project (2003) (UK) (working title)
MPAA: Rated R for depiction of strong thematic material.
Runtime: 125 min
Country: UK / France / New Zealand
Language: English
Color: Color
Sound Mix: Dolby Digital
Certification: UK:12A / USA:R

Trivia: Filming nearly stopped because of lack of funding. (more)

 VERA DRAKE

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User Comments:

noralee
Queens, NY

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.

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 out."

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 overwhelm us.

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 Award.

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.
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Academy Award: Best Actressjellicle2
Pro-life women are the real feministsMoonsofJupiter
American abortion in the 50sslave2theconcept
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What ... no Abortion 'debate'?vatz
Coming to a thearter near you?baconm
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