Vera Drake is a selfless woman who is completely devoted to, and loved by, her working class family. She spends her days doting on them and caring for her sick neighbor and elderly mother. However, she also secretly visits women and helps them induce miscarriages for unwanted pregnancies. While the practice itself was illegal in 1950s England, Vera sees herself as simply helping women in need, and always does so with a smile and kind words of encouragement. When the authorities finally find her out, Vera's world and family life rapidly unravel.Written by
Sujit R. Varma
When Daniel Mays was developing his character, he initially used a lot of obscenities in his speech because he thought that was how a young working-class man like Sid would speak. Mike Leigh advised him that in 1950 a boy like Sid definitely would not have routinely used obscenities, especially around women and his family. See more »
The young girl tells the psychiatrist that her father works for the Ministry of Defence. The Ministry of Defence was created in a 1968 merger of the War Office, Air Ministry, and Admiralty. See more »
Hello George, only me. How are you going today?
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Wonderfully acting, developed and written even if the slow pace may put some off
In the early 1950's, Britain is still very much recovering from the war years and the working classes are very much held together by salt-of-the-earth types supporting their families and others. One such woman is Vera Drake; mother, wife, carer, cleaner and part-time back-street abortionist. Vera takes no money for her work and simply wishes to give them the help that they cannot afford to get through legitimate channels. However not everyone shares her view of abortion and it is only a matter of time before Vera's work comes to the attention of the authorities.
Bearing in mind that this film being mentioned in the Oscars, Baftas and general glowing support of critics, it is easy to forget that it raced through the UK's multiplexes so quickly that I had to wedge myself into a sold-out art-house cinema just to see it (sold out, that is, on an afternoon screening). It is even easier to forget that fewer than 1000 people have even voted for this title as I write this review. Certainly watching it yesterday it is easy to understand why it is feted by critics but not the choice of thousands of teenagers for a Saturday night at the movies, because it is a very slow, difficult film that is far from being a bundle of laughs. However it is still a fascinating film throughout even if it is not as strong as could have been expected. The story is basic and it can't quite fill the time, maybe down to the way it was written that is, it was written as a frame and the dialogue was improvised and workshopped rather than scripted in the traditional fashion (hence Leigh's surprise at one of his Oscar nominations!).
While this weakens the story a little, it seems to have produced great performances from the cast that do more than cover for the slow pace. Staunton is superb and she stands out in the best actress category. She is a complex character that the film never easily pigeonholes and it shows how balanced the film is in the way we are not swayed in her favour by her character whenever her morals come under fire. The film is very much hers and she is totally convincing in her character. She is well supported by natural performances from Graham, Davis, Marsan and Mays among others. Leigh's direction is very intimate and, with sets and costumes, he has painted a convincingly downbeat view of post-war Britain that looks good and adds to the realistic feel of the film.
The film had a lot less debate than I had expected and it doesn't really come down on either side of the abortion issue; I guess that it is better that it leaves it to us to think over rather than preaching to us how nice (and unusual) to be treated like adults by a film. Overall though, it is the story and Vera herself that make the film so involving, the story is well framed and the workshop approach has produced some very good performances, particularly from Staunton, who outshines all others nominated alongside her in the Oscars. Deserves to be seen by larger audiences than it has had thus far, but just don't expect it to be fast-paced, fun or gripping it is much more than that.
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