Saturday, September 10, 2005

Movie Review: Vera Drake

The controversy over abortion has been around for centuries and is easy to discuss in the abstract. The movie Vera Drake, however, is the heartrending story of a woman who puts her life on the line for young girls who need her help in dealing with unwanted pregnancy. Vera (Imelda Staunton) is a devoted wife and mother living in 1950s England. Unbeknowst to her family, she has been helping young women terminate their pregnancies for approximately 20 years when she is finally arrested and her whole world falls apart. It's a stunning story of what happens when the actions of a person's conscience are in conflict with social mores. The good thing about this movie is it is morally complex rather than presenting a black and white view of the issues. Rather than being a "message film" it is a straightforward portrait of ordinary people dealing with the circumstances that confront them and attempting to be compassionate in their responses. It is impossible to respond to the film dogmatically. Real-life consists of shades of grey and as we watch the events unfolding we also experience the tension of not being able to easily categorise the characters into neat little boxes. The acting is excellent -- Imelda Staunton was nominated for an Oscar as best actress. The movie was also nominated for best director and best original screenplay. This is a straightforward drama without the over-the-top special effects that so many movies seem to need to have to get a significant audience. The characters and story are what are important. Don't expect the addictive action of the latest Hollywood fluff. You will need to be patient as the painful experiences of each person, especially Vera Blake, unfolds. This is a truly great movie and not to be missed. My Rating: **** (out of 5) Positive Review 'Vera Drake puts the passion in compassion. Building up to a shattering conclusion, Leigh's movie is both outrageously schematic and powerfully humanist.' - J Hoberman/Village Voice Negative Review 'As a character study Vera Drake is coarsely drawn, and as pro-choice polemic, it’s both a blunt instrument and a red herring. Which may be why, among all the moviegoers who staggered from the theater wielding soaked tissues, I was among the few who remained dry of eye, and raised of brow.' - Ella Taylor/LA Weekly Content Warning depiction of strong thematic material Related Links

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