Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Vera Drake

Reviews - Vera Drake

Vera Drake

Reviewed By Darren Horne

The critically acclaimed Mike Leigh film Vera Drake shuffled onto cinema screens months ago and I
am still sceptical as to why it has gained so much praise.

Imelda Staunton takes on the title role as a selfless matriarch that believes every problem can be solved with a cup of tea and a jaunty, if not annoying, hum.
Vera copes with post war Britain with ease, holding together her interdependent family as she moves around the community, cleaning upper class houses and looking after those in need; always with a smile and a kind word on her lips.

But Vera has a secret. In 1950’s Britain abortion was illegal, certainly without the consent of highly paid medical professionals and psychiatrists. Vera’s response to this is to perform “backstreet” terminations, helping girls “in trouble” by a non draconian method involving a syringe, soapy water and a detergent.
This is not supposed to be a tirade supporting or condemning the pro life debate, just the story of one woman who truly believes what she is doing is right.

Vera Drake was nominated for a plethora of awards, winning many of them, unsurprisingly as it ticks all the right boxes to gain the attention of the awarding bodies. The brilliant performances, the heavy and controversial subject matter and the attention to detail are all established steps along the road to awards-ville.

Unfortunately this period of Britain and the characters portrayed have been parodied over recent years by some of the best comedic talents that Britain has to offer. Instead of being immersed within the narrative (as many people were) I was constantly reminded of the similarities between Vera Drake and Julie Waters’s Mrs Overall from Acorn Antiques.

This journey into my own little world was strengthened when Jim Broadbent turned up in a minor role as a judge. This is a walk on part! There is no character for him to develop or get his teeth into and he is too recognisable to believe he is anyone other than Jim Broadbent. I felt like the audience should erupt into the polite applause of cricket spectators as someone calls out “Jim Broadbent ladies and gentlemen, round of applause for Mr Jim Broadbent” His links to Victoria Woods and Julie Waters did nothing to stop my Acorn Antiques delusion, although at least I was able to entertain myself.

I found the film repetitive, with the abortion sequences being repeated several times with diverse clients. It did not need this many different portrayals for the audience to understand what it is Vera Drake does, one or two would have sufficed. The everyday mundane nature of these operations is already emphasised due to Vera Drake handling them in the everyday manor of someone cleaning a toilet bowl.

It is this flogging of the proletarian working class groundhog day-esque life that drains the most, and at over two hours this film is a trial to sit through.
This post war working class world is superbly represented down to the last detail; but at the cost of the narrative. A prime example of this is when Vera unpacks her shopping bag one item at a time so that the audience can marvel at the recreation of 1950’s tins of food.
I personally did not enjoy this film, would not watch it again and have put off even writing this review for as long as I could. Many people have tried to open my eyes and show me the beauty of this film, but I remain in the dark. Vera Drake was just not my Cup of Tea.

Score 2/5

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