Vera Drake - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Vera Drake Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ August 8, 2010
A captivating, impromptu film, directed by Mike Leigh, who takes chances and weaves together a narrative about the lives of the downtrodden working Irish families of the fifties, in this film headed by a woman with a plethora of secrets. Mike Leigh did not write a screenplay for this film, but had most of the actors find their own characters, and then wrote everything around that. The scenes were improvised, and the emotions onscreen, however searing and real, were that of the moment, of the actual characters in their element. Therefore, this is an actor's film, one that is always bursting with the presence of Vera Drake (Staunton). There is a slow, deep resonance of the character of Vera Drake, who though is the main focus of the film isn't always the main priority. There is a whole subset of characters, including the daughter and son, their in-laws, and friends, besides these girls who are actually in trouble. There is also a slight undertone about the history of Ireland, including a women's right to choose, and the illegal means to which women took care of it at the time. More importantly are the implications to Vera's actions, the way it reflects on her family and her role in the community. Though at first I didn't understand the role of the plot in the last hour, it flowed that way to build tension between the family members. When the family hears about Vera's crimes it was the first time for the actors too, and it was genuine and gritty and hopeless all at the same time. Imelda Staunton, who has mostly been pigeonholed into the supporting character actor category so many times before, inexplicably shines. Vera Drake is an amazing character, so filled with a depth and personal tension that comes off her in waves, so much a martyr in many respects and yet she does unspeakable things in her religion and society. She is the epitome of pious maternal instincts and mousy womanhood. It's even hard to watch in certain places, and that all comes from Staunton's grace and serenity in the face of adversity. Beautiful, contextual film that is also a great period piece.
Super Reviewer
½ February 19, 2009
In this film Mike Leigh gives us a powerful story of a true working class hero that is at once an indictment and an endorsement of the stereotypical British stiff upper lip. As a whole, the film isn't up to the captivating performance of Imelda Staunton in the title role - it slips into dull and bleak domestic drama from time to time and it moves rather slowly, but Leigh never wastes a shot, and the action picks up in the last hour before the film reaches its stirring conclusion. Worth seeing once.
Super Reviewer
½ March 4, 2009
This is a little slow to begin with but soon you will find that Imelda Staunton who plays Vera Drake Captures your heart and you can't shut it off, her acting was beyond the best. When the law comes to question Vera and then all the scenes from there on out, you just have to see to beleive. I would say you need to rent this today. 4 1/2 stars SEE IT NOW
Super Reviewer
August 4, 2007
Imelda Staunton is simply astounding in the title role. A master thespian, as for the picture it is well made but too grim to be enjoyable. A worthy effiort but heavy going.
Super Reviewer
½ June 30, 2007
Directed by: Mike Leigh.
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?" >>
Super Reviewer
½ June 7, 2007
omg imelda staunton is such a SWEETHEART!! this very sweet movie broke my heart.
Super Reviewer
March 29, 2007
On one hand, you've got a movie of surprising poignancy, considering it didn't have a script. Almost everything was improvised based on the concept of the scene. Some of the exchanges are excellent, helped along by strong performances. Imelda Staunton is a striking standout, and though I don't think I would have given her the Oscar over Hilary Swank, she certainly deserved her nomination. Finally, the movie treats the controversial issue of abortion with a gentle, nonpartisan hand, getting all the pathos it can from the subject without making it feel manipulative.

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.
Super Reviewer
September 16, 2006
One of Leigh's best, in my opion. Imelda Staunton was deffinatly worthy of her oscar nomination.
Super Reviewer
January 30, 2005
This journal is totally directionless right now. I usually have something fake planned for it. But, I guess fits of "real" entries can sometimes plague even the shallowest of entertainment journals.

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. ;)
Super Reviewer
May 21, 2014
Imelda Staunton's performance as an illegal abortionist is understated enough to be brilliant. Her passion for helping women which seems to be greater than her understanding for doing what it is that she does adds to the film's gravity.
Cody H.
Super Reviewer
½ August 23, 2011
Heartbreaking in so many ways, Vera Drake is a vastly humane examination of a pressing social issue. Imelda Staunton shines through her sensitive portrayal of a woman in blameless earnest, and the films claustrophobic direction truly enhances the feel of familial harmony in the first half and the suspense that permeates the second.
Super Reviewer
September 5, 2006
One of those complex, emotionally absorbing dramas that is so good it leaves you dumbfounded. The acting from every single member of the cast is superb, as is Mike Leigh's writing and direction. As far as films released over the course of this decade go, this one deserves a spot near the top.
Super Reviewer
½ April 30, 2007
Imelda Staunton is indelable. A poignant film about a criminalized abortionist, although a little slow.
Super Reviewer
December 19, 2006
Staunton and company lend tremendous weight to abortion drama.
Critique Threatt
Super Reviewer
½ May 9, 2010
Landmark film. Mike Leigh's Vera Drake is a powerful, sad, controversial film. Imelda Stuanton peformance is so real and effortless. You can either love her, hate her, or empathize. The court room scenes I thought were one of the best. I was really feeling the walls coming down on Stuanton's role. Can't help but feel for her guilt and pain.
Super Reviewer
½ April 26, 2009
Director Mike Leigh's Vera Drake was an agonizing story of working class married woman who lead two lives.The main character Vera performed by that wonderful actress, Imelda Staunton, dominated the movie with her lovely and plain character. Her Vera role was an example of a person who could not say no to anyone in need.The cast was marvelous. Phil Davis as Stan, Vera's husband,was excellent. Alex Kelly played the timid daughter Ethel, who never said a word, was super. We must consider Drake's character, see her motives, and question her actions, but also her heart.I think director Leigh wanted to challenge the viewer, not to support abortion, but to support loving and caring for others, even when we disagree with their actions.
Super Reviewer
½ May 28, 2008
Imelda Staunton is quiet and reserved and doesn't seem to feel the need to overdramatize.
Super Reviewer
½ August 14, 2007
'Vera Drake' is a film about a woman who simply tries to do good. She seeks out those in need of her help, and aids their situation free of charge, with a cup of tea to keep things friendly. She assures them things will be alright, and she believes in those words, and what she does. She lives with her husband and two grown up children in working class 1950's Britain; on the side of her cleaning jobs, Vera also performs back-street abortions.

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.
Super Reviewer
June 19, 2008
Deals brilliantly with the delicate issue of back street abortion.

Imelda Staunton's performance deserved the oscar.
Super Reviewer
December 26, 2007
Astoundingly acted, quiet little film, that deals with the topic in a non-judgemental way, leaving the audience to shape their own opinions. Imelda Staunton's performance is earth-shattering. Very touching, subtle narration.
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