Friday, August 21, 2009

Vera Drake

Vera Drake
is a must see film. It is one of my favorites long with In the Mood for Love. Unlike ITMFL, though, VD's pace is faster and the color scheme is earthy and bit depressing. It received the highest honor, the Leone d'Oro, at the 2004 Venice Film Festival, and its leading actress, Imelda Staunton, won the Volpi Cup.

The story is intense and dark, and the end will resonate during the hours after watching the film (at least it did for me. haha). Vera Drake, played by Staunton, is a middle-class, working woman, mother, and wife who cleans the homes of wealthy family. Despite her profession, living condition, and low income, she is a respected individual in her community and is grateful for what she is. She helps out her elderly neighbor and invites a single, lonely neighbor to dinner at her humble home. She has a heart of gold.

Behind her family's back and outside of her work, she provides back alley abortions to young ladies. During the 1950s, the time period when the film is set in, abortions are illegal. She is not paid for performing the abortions. She does it purely to help the young women who seek her help. I will stop the synopsis here since the film is one that you really must watch.

The set of the film is beautiful. Everything about the film feels really authentic. I did a research paper for my film class that talked briefly about VD. British cinema has long been trying to differentiate itself from Hollywood films. One of the ways in which British cinema does this is to deglamorize its actors, sets, and costumes. By doing this, realism is shown as opposed to the flamboyance, "scriptedness" of Hollywood movies. Mike Leigh, who directed VD, does this especially well by capturing real emotions, real settings of the time period. Many of the scenes were even improvised with only Staunton knowing what is to happen next. Leigh was able to capture the shock that the other actors left as the plot revealed.

P.S. The film is heartbreaking.

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