On Saturday, after checking out The Gates and having brunch at <a href="http://thegreydog.com/" target="blank”>The Grey Dog, we decided to see Vera Drake at the Second Avenue movie theater in Manhattan. I have always been a fan of Mike Leigh movies. As a matter of fact, for a long time during college the movie <a href="http://imdb.com/title/tt0107653/?fr=c2l0ZT1kZnxteD0yMHxzZz0xfGxtPTIwMHx0dD1vbnxmYj11fHBuPTB8cT1OYWtlZHxodG1sPTF8bm09b24;fc=1;ft=6;fm=1” target=”_blank”>Naked was one I considered a favorite. (You know how it is when you’re reading Nietzsche for the first time, sipping coffee in the afternoon, trying to come up with a personal strife large enough to give yourself more meaning, don’t you?) Anyway, it’s still a great movie, but I no longer ramble on about how “nihilistic” and amazing David Thewlis’s character is because I am no longer an absolute dork, just a more diluted one.
When I think of Mike Leigh’s movies I picture myself on a personal journey, surrounded by british people who are continually SCREAMING at one another, while I try and figure out what it is they’re saying. Leigh manages to depress you a little bit, and then a little bit more, until finally, he hurls you into a brick wall leaving you feeling sweaty, tired, alive and totally dead.
But Vera Drake was different.
All of my life I have had a fondness to films about “fallen heros”. (That’s a term I came up with years ago after falling in love with Luke. I have no idea if it even makes any sense.) From Cool Hand Luke to <a href="http://imdb.com/title/tt0110684/?fr=c2l0ZT1kZnxteD0yMHxzZz0xfGxtPTIwMHx0dD1vbnxmYj11fHBuPTB8cT1Ob2JvZHkncyBGb29sfGh0bWw9MXxubT1vbg;fc=1;ft=20;fm=1” target=”_blank”>Nobody’s Fool, from Jack Nicholson in <a href="http://imdb.com/title/tt0237572/?fr=c2l0ZT1kZnxteD0yMHxzZz0xfGxtPTIwMHx0dD1vbnxmYj11fHBuPTB8cT1UaGUgUGxlZGdlfGh0bWw9MXxubT1vbg;fc=1;ft=20;fm=1” target=”_blank”>The Pledge all the way to Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character in Last Exit to Brooklyn, I have always had a fondness for the guy (or gal) down on their luck. They’re guilty, yet in the end they are a hero in their own, albeit small, world.
Vera Drake was another one of the fallen hero’s. While she is a mother and a loving wife, she secretly performs illegal abortions on women who are in trouble. Yet somehow, in the end, you find yourself empathizing with her. Mike Leigh parallels the “legal” abortion (that which uses metal objects, and given by men who charge women a very large amount of money) with that of Vera Drake’s soapy water and a syringe to which she is giving for free. There is the struggle between classes and personal beliefs. And in the end, while you’re not scraping your remains from a brick wall with spatula, you’re still left feeling kind of wasted.
I can’t do this film justice. I can’t find the words to explain just how powerful of a performance Imelda Staunton gives but I will say that the movie has haunted me for numerous seconds within every hour since the credits stopped.
The back-beat of the film makes a statement in comparing what went on in the 1950s to what could happen present day should abortion become illegal. One is haunted with the knowledge that in all likelihood said abortions will not be given by a kind woman who uses a fairly painless and safe method to do so.
In a nutshell, it’s not uplifting, but it is sure worth seeing.