Vera Drake DVD
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Directed by Mike Leigh
Produced in 2004
Main Language - ENGLISH
Countries & Regions - British Film
Phil Davies, Imelda Staunton
Mike Leigh’s latest takes as its central theme abortion, though not as we know it - which may be the reason pro-life groups weren’t spotted picketing cinemas showing the film. Rather than in shiny, antiseptic clinics, 1950s Islington housewife Vera Drake’s procedures take place against a backdrop of post-War austerity, on unwashed sheets in makeshift hovels. Vera (Imelda Staunton) lives a dual life, couched in euphemism: charlady and doting matriarch by day, by night she performs "kindnesses" on those who’ve "got themselves into trouble".
It’s set half a century ago, but Vera Drake can sometimes seem half a world away, in a time and place where an N1 postcode could denote relative poverty, a £30 television set might be considered expensive, and couples would get engaged before sharing so much as a kiss. Space is at a premium throughout. The two most discomforting scenes in the film are not of Vera’s extra-curricular activities, but those occasions where more than four people attempt to squeeze into the poky Drake household.
The abortion scenes themselves are still remarkable, serving different yet equally telling dramatic functions, like the murders in last year’s Monster or the sex scenes in Crash: alternately instructive, horrific, tense and tragic. Staunton, fussing indelibly for much of the first half, comes to do one of the recent cinema’s great unravels, as though someone had pulled at a loose strand from one of Vera’s cardigans and took something of her spirit along with it.
By anyone’s standards, Vera Drake is an exceptional piece of filmmaking, a richly detailed reconstruction of faces, hairstyles, lifestyles, even names that seem to have long died out. Clearly no date movie, though: its idea of responsible bedroom activity is Vera snuggling up to her husband and offering no more than a hearty pat on the shoulder.
Mike McCahill on 1st March 2005
Author of 215 reviews
Mike Leigh's award-winning drama is set in 1950s London. Imelda Staunton delivers an acclaimed performance as Vera, who cleans houses but also has a sideline in helping women end their unwanted pregnancies. When the authorities catch up with her, her world begins to crumble.
Length: 120 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.85 Wide Screen
Cat No: MP399D
Format: DVD Colour
Subtitles: Hard of Hearing - English
- Cast & crew documentary
by Anon on 0th April 2005
Mike Leigh’s latest is also one of his best, a stunningly-acted, thought-provoking film that deals with the issue of abortion in a way that challenges those on both si... Read on
Mike Leigh’s latest is also one of his best, a stunningly-acted, thought-provoking film that deals with the issue of abortion in a way that challenges those on both sides of the argument to ponder their convictions.
Set in London in 1950, the story centres on Vera (the astonishing Imelda Staunton), a dedicated wife, mother and bastion of her community, with a secret life as a backstreet abortionist. Vera is no clichéd monster, cynically taking advantage of young women in a spot. Indeed such is her selflessness, and a sort of willed naivety about her actions (she takes no money, merely regarding what she does as a helping hand, like doing the shopping) that when the police call the effect – on her, her family and the audience – is devastating.
It’s a stark piece, set mostly in drab parlours and police stations, Vera’s mantra of “another cuppa tea luv” a bleakly comic reminder of the monotonous lives being observed; the actors, notably Staunton and Phil Davies as her husband, capturing perfectly the stoic attitude of the post-war working class. It is an absorbing, powerful piece of work.
by Barry Forshaw on 30th March 2005
Imelda Staunton may not have taken home an Oscar for her astonishing performance in Mike Leigh's highly affecting drama, but she could not complain that her performanc... Read on
Imelda Staunton may not have taken home an Oscar for her astonishing performance in Mike Leigh's highly affecting drama, but she could not complain that her performance has not been one of the most acclaimed in British cinema for many years. And, in fact, the film already has already gleaned several awards, notably its impressive BAFTA achievements. The actress's brilliantly observed portrayal of a kindhearted woman in 1950's England who performs abortions for young girls who have got into trouble remains a moving drama as well as something of a polemical piece: as religious groups (in this country and the USA) fight to reverse the reforms that have made the lives of women so much easier, Vera Drake is a salutary reminder of just how bad conditions once were. Another plus for the film is that, for once, Leigh has resisted his customary temptation to caricature middle-class characters at the expense of more sympathetic working-class characters (a trait he shares with the director Ken Loach, although the latter can never resist caricaturing the class to which he actually belongs). Hide
by Anon on 21st February 2005
We can expect The Aviator to win every Oscar in sight, and not just because it has had the largest and most expensive advertising campaign. The name of the firmament i... Read on
We can expect The Aviator to win every Oscar in sight, and not just because it has had the largest and most expensive advertising campaign. The name of the firmament is money and success, and Hughes shines in it because he was ambitious, extravagant, randy, rich and reckless. Scorsese's main achievement is that he turns a near-absolute shit into an all-American star. From a poor script, he creates a poor man’s Citizen Kane without any of the poetry. For Rosebud and the youthful paradise it represents, substitute disinfectant, or more precisely, a disaffected life. Towards the end, DiCaprio’s difficulty in spelling that word is not without significance. I disliked Hughes and his values intensely, and I thought DiCaprio’s performance was dwarfed by that of every single actor in Vera Drake, a film that has the integrity that was totally lacking in The Aviator. Hide
by Anon on 17th February 2005
Set in working class London in the 1950s long before abortion was legalized, Mike Leigh's Vera Drake is the story of a middle-aged wife and mother of two who performs ... Read on
Set in working class London in the 1950s long before abortion was legalized, Mike Leigh's Vera Drake is the story of a middle-aged wife and mother of two who performs abortions on young women without means only because she wants to help them out. Winner of the Golden Lion at the 61st Venice International Film Festival, Vera Drake is a powerful character study of a generous but naïve woman whose good deeds are undone by society's rigid rules and her failure to share her activities with her family.
Pregnant women are directed to Vera through a mercenary friend Lily (Ruth Sheen) who requires payment for her services, but Vera does not ask for money and seems unaware of Lily's commercial ventures. She works in secret, dispatching her troubled women with the same cheery efficiency that she shows when fixing a tasty dinner for her family. Though the film is primarily a social drama, political points are scored when Vera’s home remedies are contrasted with the professional medical procedures that only the wealthy can afford.
When one of Vera's patients ends up in the hospital in serious condition, a police investigation is triggered and Vera is arrested on a felony charge on the same day the family is celebrating daughter Ethel's engagement. Her personality undergoes a heartbreaking change and the once loquacious woman is left mute, unable to mount a defense of her actions. What stayed with me was anger at an inhumane justice system interested only in setting an example, and a profound sadness for Vera and her family. Imelda Staunton is outstanding as Vera, projecting a love for humanity that is hard to resist and the film suceeds both as social drama and a reminder of how far we have come in protecting the rights of women.
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