Winter 2005 Main series
Sunday, February 13, 2005 at 4:00pm
Sunday, February 13, 2005 at 7:00pm
Monday, February 14, 2005 at 7:00pm
Monday, February 14, 2005 at 9:30pm
Rated 14A ·
Winner of the Best Film and Best Actress awards at the 2004 Venice Film Festival, Vera Drake is a powerful new film by veteran filmmaker Mike Leigh, who has continually impressed audiences and critics alike with such films as Naked, Secrets and Lies, Topsy Turvy, and All or Nothing. In Vera Drake, Leigh tackles the weighty and controversial topic of abortion from an ultimately humanist perspective. The title character is played by Imelda Staunton (Crush, Peter’s Friends), who gives an astonishing performance as a wife and mother who performs illegal abortions on the side.
The setting is London in the fifties, where Vera and her husband Stan live in a cramped flat with their grown-up children. Though they are not wealthy, they manage to live quite well — Vera is a cleaner, Stan a mechanic — and the family gets along well and is generally happy. This makes a fascinating backdrop for the events that unfold. Vera has no reason to risk family bliss, but she is compelled into a form of social activism that will lead her to unexpected and potentially dangerous places. Unlike her friend Lily (Ruth Sheen), Vera performs abortions for free, driven by compassion and a sense of civic duty. She is moved by the plight of those who desperately need to end their pregnancies but cannot afford to do so. But things don’t always go as planned, and it isn’t long before Vera’s private life is threatened. What happens next turns her world — and that of her family — upside down. Drama rarely comes more potent and heartbreaking than this.
Leigh has done a magnificent job of contrasting Vera’s home life with her extracurricular escapades. Above all, however, it is Staunton’s portrayal of Vera that makes this film one of the most striking in recent memory. She is a gifted actress who has found the perfect showcase for her talents, and Leigh is just the filmmaker to take advantage of this in constructing this intelligent, thought-provoking work.