Vera Drake Reviews
Starring: Imelda Staunton, Eddie Marsan, Philip Davis.
<< "I help girls out." >>
To say that this film is 'entertainment' would be a terrible thing to say, due to the subject matter of the film, but no one can deny that it is an outstanding and very powerful piece of filmmaking.
From director and writer Mike Leigh, he has bought forward a very disturbing and controversial topic, abortion. The story follows a woman, Vera Drake, a domestic helper in her community with a heart of gold who does selfless deeds to help people around her.
I will definitely not go into details about the story, as it is something you truly have to see and judge for yourself, but the screenplay is outstanding. It is injected with a sense of humanity and examines and explores the disturbing topic of abortion and the attitudes towards it in society. Not only that, but the screenplay is skillfully plotted and very deep. It carefully introduces us to Vera Drake and with the help of Imelda's performance, we really care for her and learn to hate her at the same time. We are also introduced brilliantly to her loving family and we understand there feelings throughout the entire film....all the way through the hauntingly emotional final hour.
The acting is that of a higher class, although everyone gives great performances on many different levels, the star of the show is Imelda Staunton, who delivers an astonishing and masterful performance. She injects life into her character and makes us love her instantly and when the emotion hits, her face is the canvas and it carries a lot of the emotion of the film, she is an absolutely outstanding actress.
The film is full of great British humor, powerful drama and emotion and it pulls you in from the very first scene and never lets you go until the credits roll (and even then, it will stay with you). As a word of warning, you will not leave this film with an uplifted mood, it will leave you somber and in tears, but you would have just experienced a very powerful masterpiece.
<< "It ain't fair. Me mum brought up six of us in two rooms. If you can't feed 'em, you can't love 'em, now can you?" >>
At the same time, though, I can't help but feel that this movie is agitatingly British. Long pauses in between dialogue, drab set pieces, and some really assy cinematography all mean that the movie is only engaging when it really has to be. Sure, it counts for a lot when the time comes, but it's not a consistent or perfect film. This tested even my iron patience in a few stretches. The first hour is somewhat repetitive, and it clears up by the end of the second act, but it's not an easy watch.
I think I daydream too much. It invades my capacity to remember reality, and I become oblivious. 3 years ago, I never, ever would've thought myself to be the slightest bit scatterbrained. I believe it is my surroundings that just aren't interesting enough on a consistent basis, and I escape in the most conservative, least harmful way. I daydream.
Yet, all these figments of fantasy that overcome me feel like I'm ultimately denying my body. My mind is having all the fun. Which, I think, explains why I've had the urge to dance and get out much more lately and have been singing more in my car. I used to be so much more active before work.
The beach and the toy store are now my sanctuaries away from home. Home is now my "reading, writing and drawing pit," and has never truly felt like home to me. I think that's why I need to get away from home more often. Give it more meaning. Go live these daydreams. See the world.
(Sounds glamorous, but I really have little clue what I'm doing.)
"You and your brothers travel too much," my Mom often tells me. "Why don't you want to come home?"
"Well Mom, I stay away because I love you."
The conversation gets pretty interesting after that. ;)
But abortion is by no means the focus of Mike Leigh's picture. It is more an analysis of how the weight of this murky moral issue drives Vera to help girls who need it, how it fractures a family who are torn between love and the law, and how it brings them together again to help a favourite woman of their own.
Leigh's improvisational method is a marvel; instead of relying on a pre-imagined screenplay he builds his characters around the situations they find themselves in, and leads action to the appropriate conclusion. It is shocking after viewing to discover how many of the scenes weren't pre-scripted, and when characters reactions were completely true to life. The acting, for certain, never gives things away.
The set design too, is astonishingly detailed and accurate. Leigh has completely reconstructed 50's Britain, from the smoggy streets, dull, practical clothing right down to family interplay that stretched far beyond the walls of your own place; where neighbours knew each other their whole lives, were welcome for tea whenever the offer was exchanged, which was often. The juxtaposition of bleak setting and cinematography against these upbeat attitudes and friendly demeanours makes you feel comfortably at home.
Imelda Staunton's performance as Vera is something quite beyond acting; it is a flawless embodiment, a head-to-toe creation of what she believes this woman does, how she acts and what she believes. Family is her number one priority. And she truly helps these girls from the kindness in her heart. Staunton pierces your own to make you feel it.
The rest of the cast provide amicable support, Phil Davis especially on good form as Vera's loving husband. Leigh ensures a build-up of this family before the issue of abortion infiltrates their warm home and the hand of the law reaches out for Vera. He doesn't turn the authorities into the villains, and acknowledges the policemen are simply following duty, and carrying out the law. And Vera has broken the law. The haunting score, down-to-earth direction and beautifully subtle performances make this one of the most intriguing and emotional character studies you'll ever see.
Imelda Staunton's performance deserved the oscar.