THE LADY is an epic love story about how an extraordinary couple and family sacrifice their happiness at great human cost for a higher cause. This is the story of Aung San Suu Kyi and her husband, Michael Aris. Despite distance, long separations, and a dangerously hostile regime, their love endures until the very end. A story of devotion and human understanding set against a background of political turmoil which continues today. THE LADY also is the story of the peaceful quest of the woman who is at the core of Burma's democracy movement. Written by
Moving story of personal courage for political purpose
Making a commercial film about a struggle for human rights and democracy is a real struggle because most audiences want entertainment and not politics. So the producers have to find an 'angle'. In 1987, "A World Apart" told the story of the fight against apartheid in South Africa but through the prism of the strain that this put on ANC activist Ruth First's relationship with her young daughter. A similar approach is used here in this account of the life of Aung San Suu Kyi, the eponymous lady and leader of the National League for Democracy in the dictatorship that has ruled Burma for most of the period since post-war independence from Britain. So it is not politics as such which is to the fore here but Suu Kyi's relationship with her husband, Oxford academic Michael Aris, and most especially the regime's brutal refusal to allow Aris to see his wife one last time when he was dying of prostate cancer. It is a gut-wrenchingly sad tale.
Malaysian-born actress Michelle Yeoh - a Bond girl in "Tomorrow Never Dies" and pugilist star of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" - looks perfect in the leading role, giving a performance which, while often understated, is deeply moving. David Thewlis (various "Harry Potter" films and "The Boy With The Striped Pyjamas") is very effective as the long-suffering husband. The exotic locations and local faces in Thailand serve the movie well and original music by the French Eric Serra plus some Mozart enhance the emotional power of the work. It is perhaps no surprise that the script for what is in essence a love story comes from a female writer - the British Rebecca Frayn - but one might not expect the identity of the director for this Anglo-French film: Luc Besson, best known for such action movies as "Nikita", "Leon" and "The Fifth Element".
"The Lady" may be a bit one-dimensional and lack nuance, but it highlights a long struggle for human rights that is not sufficiently well-known and the timing of its release (I saw it in January 2012) is poignant. When filming started, Suu Kyi was still under house arrest, as she had been in total for some 15 years, but by the time the film was finished she had been released. At the end of the movie, the iron grip of the regime and the number of political prisoners are highlighted but, in the weeks around the film's release, the generals instituted a series of liberalisation measures including the freeing of most political prisoners. If all this augurs an era of genuine democracy in Burma, "The Lady" will be a wonderful testimony to the power of personal courage and sacrifice to effect political change.
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