Monday, 15 April 2013

Vera Drake (2004) – ★★★½

vera drakeDirector: Mike Leigh
Writer: Mike Leigh
Stars: Imelda Staunton, Jim Broadbent, Richard Graham, Eddie Marsan, Alex Kelly, Daniel Mays

Vera Drake is one of the most depressing movies I’ve ever seen. It’s a story that stirs conflict in the conscience of anyone who is for or against abortion. What makes this movie good is the powerhouse performance by Imelda Staunton. In my whole life, I’ve never seen a character cry as much as Vera Drake… and she evoked more sympathy from me than almost any other I’ve seen.

It’s a story about an abortionist named Vera Drake (Imelda Staunton). However, she’s not just an abortionist. She’s a mother first and a caretaker for the disabled and elderly second. What she does, she does out of the kindness of her heart. She does it to help young women during a time where it was incomprehensibly difficult to raise a child due to class, social, racial, and financial issues. This isn’t a preachy movie that asks you to make a choice, it’s simply great storytelling. It’s not so much a movie about abortion, it’s more about the abortionist herself and her family.

What makes Vera Drake most interesting is the clear display of differences between the upper and lower class. Through displaying the course of action that a ‘rich’ girl would go through to get an abortion, we see how hard it was for poor women to get a termination. For the rich, they had to pay 150 pounds and take a psychology test. There is no way the poor could possibly afford these expenses, which is why they turn to people like Vera Drake, who are there to ‘help young girls out.’

We also see that these unqualified abortionists are bound to botch a procedure at one stage in their life, no matter how seasoned a veteran they are. This is shown at the end, when Vera talks to two other abortionists who had both been performing the procedures for years. They had both botched procedures also. It just goes to show that no matter how good someone’s intentions are, they are still running the risk of seriously hurting the women they’re ‘helping.’ major problem I had with the film was that it dragged on way too much. Like I said, I’ve never seen a character cry so much in a movie. This certainly makes the whole process more realistic, however, it grates on your patience when it goes on for one hour. Also, the movie just seemed too long for a story with hardly any significant events.

In the end, it was Imelda Staunton that made this a very good film. Her performance in Vera Drake is one of the best of all time. She was robbed of the Oscar for Best Actress that year, but then again, The Academy Awards are a popularity contest between Hollywood’s elite. If you see this film, you’ll know that hers was the best performance of the year. You should watch this film for Staunton’s incredible performance alone. The great subject matter is just the icing on the cake.

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