Vera Drake is portrayed as an incredibly positive, outgoing and slightly naive person, with a heart of gold, who is available and willing to help anyone who requires it. Married with two children, a son and a shy, introvert daughter, she goes on her day to day life, cleaning houses as a way to pay the bills. The harsh discrepancy comes when we find out Vera is also known, to many women, as the lady who performs abortions. She does it because she thinks she is helping girls out whenever they can't manage, and because she has been doing it for such a long time without any problems and without receiving any money for it, she is sincerely upset when one of her "patients" is admitted to the hospital in terrible conditions after it.
Misses Drake's world collapses when, in the day of her daughter's engagement, the police come knocking on her door, demanding information about her rituals, after the sick girl's mother tells the police Vera's name. That scene when the detectives come to confront the woman is probably one of the most moving, heartbreaking moments of the whole movie. We can easily see the change as she realises what she has done and what might await for her, we can feel her emotions, her terror, and her performance was quite extraordinary. I loved the fact that everything was quiet, there were no shouted accusations or cheeky attitude, there were only silent voices and normal conversation, as she admits to the detective and the police that she "help girls out, when they can't manage"; she answers the questions, but her mind always goes back to her family and her children in the other room.
Vera Drake is a bleak, rather slow movie- it seems like it's just waiting to burst, but there is no fire, not even at the end. The cinematography and the direction are wonderful and they perfectly use the 50s sets and costumes, which are all realistic, and I always smiled at the use of the very British language (Ta, crikey, be back in a jiffy). The supporting cast is very good, especially Richard Graham who plays her husband, the insanely talented Eddie Marsan as Reg, and I do have to mention the dorky Chris O'Dowd, as well, even though he had a very small part.
Imelda Staunton, portraying the main character, is, as expected, absolutely brilliant. She brings so much joy and kindness to her part at the beginning, but so much angst and fear after the reveal, and she does it with conviction, passion and immense talent. I was impressed by her performance, especially in scenes like the one where she had to take off the wedding ring.
Overall, Vera Drake is a very well made film, with a great lead performance and a sensible topic, but that might bore or unsatisfy some, just because of its slow, rather bleak rhythm. I liked it, but I wouldn't recommend whole hearted to everyone, it depends on what people usually like.
I'm sad to say this but I don't think I 'get' Mike Leigh, Another Year bored me to tears. I don't mind slow films, but I think that combined with the rather bleak subject matter is just a bit much for me. So I don't know if this is something I want to check out even though I think Imelda is an excellent actress.ReplyDelete
I haven't seen Another Year, but I am intrigued! If you don't like his movies, maybe you shouldn't see this one!Delete
Great review and I'm so glad you liked the movie. It is very bleak, but it is quite uniquely made and Imelda's performance really made it worth watching for me.ReplyDelete
Yes, it did it for me, too, Staunton is fantastic! Thanks!Delete
I love the film, and I'm glad you liked it too. The performances are great all around, as they are in most of Leigh's films. I remember quite liking Daniel Mays' supporting performance as well.ReplyDelete
Daniel Mays- is that Sid, the son? he was good, too! or maybe I'm wrong...anyway, everyone did a great job!Delete
Yeah, he played Sid.Delete
Nice review, glad you liked this one. I think it's fair enough that people may find this movie slow or boring, Leigh's style is really just to set the camera there and let it play out. I'm completely enamored with it, but it's definitely not for everyone.ReplyDelete
Have you seen other Leigh films? Secrets & Lies, All or Nothing, Happy-Go-Lucky and especially Naked... all great films in my eye.
No, I haven't, but I will definitely check them out soon. I really liked his style! Thanks!Delete