Vera Drake

"Very Good"

Vera Drake Review


Known for developing scripts out of improvisational exercises, Mike Leigh's gift for getting incredible performances out of actors is impressive. His character-driven pieces are consistently provocative and engaging, though they may also leave you feeling depressed at their insistence on sticking with the reality of how circumstances play out versus tying together a neat, entertaining ending.

Vera Drake is no exception to this practice. Set in working-class London in the 1950s, it explores the path of a middle-aged woman who performs illegal abortions to young women in need. Vera (Imelda Staunton) is one of those truly kind-hearted souls who constantly helps out anyone and everyone around her. It's hard to imagine that someone that positive and giving may exist, but her charm and energetic encouragement easily win you over as genuine. She, her husband Stan (Phil Davis), and their two adult children share a cramped but warm apartment together.

The first half of the film is emotionally binding as we watch Vera care for a variety of neighbors and her mother and as she convinces local Reg (Eddie Marsan) to come by and be fed. Juxtaposed with her brief occupational scenes of cleaning for unhappy rich people and the discomfort of Stan's brother Frank (Adrian Scarborough) with his materialistic wife Joyce (Heather Craney), you quietly get the sense of how simple happiness can be when you appreciate the small connecting moments as in Vera's household.

The scenes of Vera with her patients are truly gripping in their variety of clients, the reactions of these women making such a huge decision, and Vera's steadying, empathetic nature. Instead of pushing some morality envelope of politics on the audience, Leigh wisely chooses to keep the much-debated operation within the confines of individual crisis.

Unfortunately, after Vera is apprehended when one of her patients becomes ill, the film falls into the clutches of watching Vera weep and the tediousness of London law. There are still a few powerful scenes, such as when Stan is asking their son to forgive Vera despite his own anger, but the emotional intensity that was so strongly built in the beginning falters with repeated close-ups of Vera crying.

This is especially disappointing as there are several tangents left unacknowledged after new information has come to the surface. During interrogation Vera finds out that her best friend from childhood was selling Vera's services unbeknownst to her, when Vera wouldn't have been charging for it to begin with. We never see or hear of Lily (Ruth Sheen) again, nor do we learn any punishment she must suffer, from either Vera or the law, based on her actions. To portray such an extreme betrayal and not follow through, after spending so much extra time on legal exactitudes, loses an enormous mental investment in the events.

Also a letdown is some of the character interaction in that you don't feel any chemistry between the players, as well written as the dialogue might be. Frank and Joyce don't really feel like a couple, and their scenes of her wanting more stuff while Frank grasps to keep his relationship with his brother together are repetitive and aggravating. It's also surprising that Lily and Vera are supposed to have been best friends for such a long period of time with their extremely divergent personality traits and Lily's cold conversational attitude.

But even given its focus faults, Vera Drake is still the work of a talented writer-director who manages to intelligently capture a difficult subject so rarely covered in film. Beautifully shot and impeccably acted with human interaction that remains easy to relate to though taking place in a different era, Vera Drake will keep your mind reeling well after leaving the theater. (Those interested in a similar story might consider Claude Chabrol's A Story of Women.)

Reviewed as part of the 2004 New York Film Festival.

Vera! Vera! What has become of you?



Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Run time: 125 mins

In Theaters: Friday 7th January 2005

Box Office USA: $3.6M

Distributed by: New Line Cinema

Production compaines: Thin Man Films, Les Films Alain Sarde

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Fresh: 144 Rotten: 13

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Vera Drake, as Susan, as George, as Reg, Anna Keaveney as Nellie, as Mrs. Wells, as Sid, as Mr. Wells, as Sid's Customer, as Frank, as Lily, Gerard Monaco as Kenny, as Kenny, as Jessie Barnes, as Det. Inspector Webster, as Det. Sergeant Vickers, as Judge, as Ethel

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Chips Movie Review

Chips Movie Review

It's clear from the very start that this movie has little to do with the...

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Advertisement
Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.