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Vera Drake

September 11, 2010

Vera Drake (2004)
Director: Mike Leigh
Actors: Imelda Staunton, Phil Davis, Daniel Mays

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Synopsis: Affable Vera Drake (Imelda Staunton) potters on with her life as cleaner and mother in postwar London. Until a dark secret about one of her ‘benevolent’ practices comes to the fore….

Review: Viewed through a certain prism, Vera Drake works really nicely – its economic storytelling is masterly, the characterisation deft, and the authenticity of Fifties working-class London is beautifully nuanced and lovingly brought to life by Mike Leigh. Beyond that though, Vera Drake is a bit of a disappointment – certainly nowhere near as dramatic as Leigh intended the material to be. The abortion politicking is a damp squib with Leigh drawing out the revelations and accompanying ironies and pathos exceedingly demonstratively. The scenes of Drake unravelling in a police station and courtroom seem misguided attempts to fawn at Imelda Staunton’s stellar character-acting, rather than continue the taut and sophisticated narrating that marked the first half of the film. The accompanying subplot of a middle-class girl’s experience of a more palatable form of abortion is equally weak in a dramatic context, making transparent Leigh’s didactic streak that mars the film’s latter stages. (October 2005)

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