Vera Drake

Picture This! Reviews Vera Drake

Reprinted from

When I was twenty-one, I knew everything. Life’s choices were easy because everything was black and white. But it’s been a long time since I took my first legal drink and now life is blessedly a myriad of shades of gray.

Writer/Director Mike Leigh introduces us to Vera Drake [Imelda Staunton] a working class woman, devoted wife, doting mother, and all around good person except for one not so tiny legal flaw. Vera, in her words, “helps young girls out,” those that have found themselves in a family way.

Set in London in the 1950’s, a time not so long ago, Vera Drake does what no amount of prophesying, self-righteous indignation, or even scientific argument has been able to do – Vera Drake puts a human face on abortion, a political issue in modern times.

Vera goes about her chores as a domestic during the day but often stops before going home to her loving husband [Richard Graham] to put a kettle of hot water on the stove in a young girl’s flat. Leigh touches veritably every situation, a woman with far too many children to feed already, an immigrant with no financial means, a wife whose husband has been stationed away from home. Even the virgin young woman of means, raped by the boorish chap, is not spared an unwanted pregnancy. Of course, unlike Vera’s girls, she has the financial wherewithal to terminate with respectability and within the law.

Because of the subject matter, Vera Drake is not an easy movie to watch, and yet it is one of the best films released in a long, long while. Leigh’s script and his vision are realized by the gritty cinematography of Dick Pope and the crisp editing of Jim Clark. Andrew Dickson wrote the music and succeeded brilliantly by allowing silence to engulf the theater in the movie’s most poignant moments.

The ensemble cast is one of the best ever assembled. Everyone, from the interrogating detective, to the manipulating childhood friend, to Vera’s future son-in-law, bring depth and believability to the screen.

That being said, it is hard to imagine anyone other than Imelda Staunton as Vera Drake. She becomes, as the movie’s tagline declares, the “Wife. Mother. Criminal.”

Vera Drake is not about right and wrong or black and white. Vera Drake is about life and all the shades of gray.

Rebecca Redshaw is the Arts& Entertainment Critic for She can be reached at