Fine Line Features | Release Date: October 10, 2004
7.7
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Generally favorable reviews based on 38 Ratings
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9
MarkB.Nov 9, 2004
Film history is loaded with instances of foreign filmmakers who seem to know America better than most Americans do. Vera Drake, written and directed by the great Mike Leigh, isn't set in the U.S. at all; it takes place in economically Film history is loaded with instances of foreign filmmakers who seem to know America better than most Americans do. Vera Drake, written and directed by the great Mike Leigh, isn't set in the U.S. at all; it takes place in economically pummeled, postwar working-class England, and yet it could be the film that begins to unite red and blue states reeling from one of the most polarizing elections in post memory (including 2000) in honest and intelligent conversation, if not necessarily consensus. For the first time since his mammothly entertaining Gilbert and Sullivan story Topsy-Turvy, Leigh sets his film in the past (and happily avoids the near-self-parody of his most recent effort, All or Nothing); he tells the story of a sweet, almost saintly past-middle-aged charwoman (the sublime Imelda Staunton) who, unbeknownst to her loving family, performs abortions for poor young women with few or no apparent other options. Of course, in that time and place, "procedure" and "operation" are the preferred euphemisms; I was surprised and slightly amused to hear the "a-word" (or a form of it) used more frequently in the dialogue of Disney/Pixar's The Incredibles. (Completely and totally different context, of course; don't worry, parents!) Leigh's narrative seems extremely leisurely, but don't be fooled; he takes his time detailing Vera's family and their relationships to one another so that when the hammer finally drops, you feel the pain in all its reverberations. This is no Cider House Rules; Leigh absolutely refuses to be didactic or polemical in the manner of fellow Brit kitchen-sink filmmaker Ken Loach; nothing against Loach, but Leigh's generosity to nearly all his characters is far more challenging here. Vera's arrest and legal difficulties are absolutely harrowing and horrifying for Vera, but it's important to note that the police do their job with compassion and more than a little reluctance; I particularly loved a policewoman who treats Vera with exceptional kindness under the circumstances. Much of the time, those folks (on both sides of a given spectrum) who clamor for "balanced" treatment of controversial topics aren't really seeking evenhandedness; they want the scales heavily weighted in favor of their side. Vera Drake, in letting the story, characters and setting speak for themselves, will undoubtedly speak to far more social conservatives on the subject (those who see it, anyway) than a thousand Michael Moore or Robert Greenwald documentaries could ever hope to. Put it this way: I just can't picture the viewers on either side of the abortion issue, including deeply religious people who absolutely believe in their hear of hearts that abortion is utterly and totally wrong, NOT desperately hoping and praying for the unquestionably well-intentioned title character to get every mercy that the court is able to give. Expand
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9
lucasfallsOct 14, 2011
A beautiful film with a original and interesting story, with a brilliant performance of Imelda Stauton, a moving film, one of the best movies of 2004.
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9
dollarsignOct 21, 2014
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