Film Reviews

VERA DRAKE

By • Oct 22nd, 2004 •

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Alain Sarde and the U.K. Film Council present in association with Inside Track Thin Man Films
Running time — 125 mins

QUOTE: I can’t wait to see who is put up against Imelda Staunton for the Best Actress Academy Award.

There is not a cup out of place or a word of dialogue that does not cry out with authenticity. Mike Leigh’s VERA DRAKE takes place in dark, dank working-class London in 1950. Vera Drake is a cleaning lady, devoted wife to her mechanic husband Stan (Phil Davis) and mother to son Sid (Daniel Mays), a tailor, and shy, awkward daughter Ethel (Alex Kelly), who works in a factory testing light bulbs. Vera also takes care of her aged, sick mother and checks in on ailing neighbors. Through gentle nudging from Vera, their shy, awkward neighbor Reg (Eddie Marsan) is welcomed into their home. Vera hopes that Reg will take a liking to Ethel. Vera is a kind, simple woman.

Yet for nearly 20 years Vera has been living a secret life as an abortionist. However, since Vera does not take any money or use harmful instruments, she merely sees herself as helping poor girls, women with too many children, and wives who have strayed from their husbands. Vera makes no judgments.

Vera’s charity work is implemented by a friend who sets up the appointments and sells Vera foodstuffs and treats. While nice enough to Vera, this woman is cold and harsh to the women who come to her. They pay her well.

When the daughter of one of Vera’s rich clients is raped and becomes pregnant, we see how under different class circumstances girls handle the problem of an unwanted pregnancy. For those privileged, there is a doctor, psychiatrist, and private nursing facilities to handle the problem.

For Vera’s clients, there is only a disinfectant, syringe, and soapy water. When one of Vera’s girls falls seriously ill and must go to a hospital, the police are called in to investigate. Vera’s world crumbles and her family, including Stan’s brother and wife, are affected by the tragedy of her arrest and trial. The impact on her family is devastating.

You will not believe how non-theatrical the entire production is. Seeing VERA DRAKE is like walking into the Drake’s 1950’s home. In Leigh’s handling of the material and the cast, I could say I know the Drakes and everyone else in this film. The realism – without a note of sentimentality – is breathtaking. There is not a single moment of acting here. The severity of the life shown is overwhelming in its truthfulness. Leigh’s strong hand is evident in all the characters, though Staunton’s portrayal is riveting and stands as one of the most affecting and disarmingly truthful I have seen so far this year. Who will be able to challenge her daring and honest performance?


Cast:
Vera Drake: Imelda Staunton
Stan: Phil Davis
Det. Inspector Webster: Peter Wright
Frank: Adrian Scarborough
Joyce: Heather Craney
Sid: Daniel Mays
Ethel: Alex Kelly
Susan: Sally Hawkins
Reg: Eddie Marsan
Lily: Ruth Sheen
WPC Best: Helen Coker
Det. Sgt. Vickers: Martin Savage
Very young woman: Sinead Matthews
Susan’s confidante: Fenella Woolgar
Judge: Jim Broadbent

Credits:
Director and screenwriter: Mike Leigh
Producers: Simon Channing Williams, Alain Sarde
Executive producers: Robert Jones, Gail Egan, Duncan Reid, Christine Gozlan
Cinematographer: Dick Pope
Editor: Jim Clark
Production designer: Eve Stewart
Costumes: Jacqueline Durran
Sound: Tim Fraser
Music: Andrew Dickson

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One Response »

  1. Nice and usefull post, thanks, this is one for my bookmarks!

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