Opening 3 Feb 2005
British director Mike Leigh, well-known for his moving portrayals of the English working-class in such films as Secrets & Lies and All or Nothing, once again sticks with his favorite subject matter in Vera Drake. Vera (Imelda Staunton) is a wife and mother in London in 1950. Unwaveringly cheery, she not only takes care of her family, but also her invalid mother, sick neighbors, and works as a domestic besides. But she also does something that not even her family is aware of – performs free illegal abortions for women with no other options – and when it is discovered, her life and that of her family changes forever.
Although the morality of abortion is never addressed in the film, writer/director Leigh clearly supports Vera’s position. The film focuses instead on the discrepancies of class, showing the unfairness of wealthy women being able to get legal abortions under psychiatrists’ orders while poor women are left with no other choice than Vera’s service. Some of the conflicts and characters’ reactions seemed simplified at times, but the acting is still superb: not only by Staunton but also by the supporting cast including Phil Davis as Vera’s husband and Leigh regulars Ruth Sheen, Lesley Sharp, and Jim Broadbent. The film provides plenty of fodder for post-viewing discussion, so join the critics (who awarded it the Golden Lion and Staunton the Best Actress trophy at the 2004 Venice Film Festival) and see Vera Drake. (Kirsten Greco)