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Wednesday
Jun222011

Vera Drake  

Mike Leigh makes my kind of films: talky and with intense ensemble acting, they tend to riff on themes of the British class system with a dollop of comedy mixed in.  

In this one, Imelda Staunton plays the title character, a hardworking cleaning lady in post-WWII England with two grown children and a beaming visage.   She's about the last person you'd expect to have a secret life as a "back-alley" abortionist.   Non-judgmental and selfless, Vera doesn’t conceive of performing abortions in any moral terms other than that when there’s someone in trouble, she must help.   In fact, she’s in a bit of denial about what it is she’s actually doing.  

Events transpire which demonstrate the dangers women faced before abortion was legalized in England in 1967.   Ironically, Vera embodies both that danger and the only helping hand accessible to women of her class.

I find it interesting that Leigh's up for best original screenplay on Sunday, given that there is no script per se.   As Helen Bushby of BBC News writes, "Leigh's legendary methods of working involve getting all the actors together for months of preparation, so they can develop the characters while he evolves his plot around them...'I was not given a script or plot, and so we spent six months creating Vera - I knew I was playing an abortionist but that was it,' [Staunton] said."

This approach makes Leigh’s work a feast for those who love the craft of screen acting.
Watching Staunton's performance, there’s never a doubt that Vera is a real person reacting to events in the way this person would.  

Aside from the screenplay nod, Staunton is up for best actress in a leading role and Leigh is up for best director.

- Feb 25, 2005  

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