Vera Drake

Rated R 2004

Another (slightly flawed) gem from writer/director Mike Leigh. It's 1950 in England, and fiftyish Vera Drake (Imelda Staunton) lives with her loving family: kind husband (Phil Davis), awkward daughter (Alex Kelly), and spirited son (Daniel Mays). Vera is the picture of maternal kindness, but she has a secret. When her day is through, she meets urgent women in squalid apartments and performs an act that she refers to as "helping young girls out." Secrets must out, and the film takes its turn toward high drama exactly halfway through, when the police show up at the Drakes' apartment to question Vera. From then on, everything rolls downhill, which should not be surprising but which is, perhaps because so few films are willing to allow the entire course of events to go to shit. The lengthy denouement may be too maudlin for some audiences, and the misery is plentiful; the fierce loyalty of Vera's family might strike others as slightly absurd. But what comes through is a great deal of emotional truth.

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