Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Vera Drake

MPAA Rating: R for depiction of strong thematic material

Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Drama
Length:
2 hr. 5 min.
Year of Release:
2004
Copyright, Fine Line Features
Copyright, Fine Line Features
Copyright, Fine Line Features
Copyright, Fine Line Features
Copyright, Fine Line Features
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Fine Line Features
Abortion

What does the Bible teach about abortion? Pro-life or pro-choice? Answer

JUSTIFIED?—Is abortion justifiable in cases of rape or incest? Answer

See: Personal stories about abortion, including those involving rape

JUSTIFIED?—“Is abortion justifiable when the child is unwanted? Doesn’t unwantedness lead to child abuse?” Answer

NOT HUMAN?—“Is the unborn human less than human at any stage?” Answer

“Doesn’t a woman have the right to control her own body?” Answer

“Is it true that “No one knows when life begins”?” Answer

Thought-Provoking Quotations on Abortion

ALL OF MY FRIENDS ARE PRO-CHOICE—When I bring religion into the argument they disregard me. They are all atheists. How can I get through to them that the abortion issue is black and white? Murder is murder. Answer

Relationship information
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Christian answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more.
Finding hope and ultimate answers

What kind of world would you create? Answer

Click here to watch THE HOPE on-line!
Discover God’s promise for all people—told beautifully and clearly from the beginning. Discover The HOPE! Watch it on-line, full-length motion picture.
Featuring: Imelda Staunton, Philip Davis, Peter Wight, Adrian Scarborough, Heather Craney
Director: Mike Leigh
Producer: Simon Channing-Williams, Simon Williams, Alain Sarde
Distributor: Fine Line Features

Wife. Mother. Criminal.

It has been a long, rather arduous journey through this year’s Oscar nominated films. There have been a few light-hearted films in the mix, but for the most part it has been an emotionally exhausting trek. So, as I got to the theater to see “Vera Drake,” the final film on the list of nominees I needed to see, I fully expected to have my emotions wrenched like a pretzel. “Vera Drake” is a controversial film that tackles a topic that has divided many on either side of the political or religious aisle.

We meet Vera Drake (Imelda Staunton) at the beginning of the film. She is a plain, simple woman who works as a housekeeper, dusting and cleaning homes of people far more wealthy than she. She cares deeply for others, and goes to help sick friends and family whenever she has a spare minute. She is someone who takes on other people’s woes as her obligation to fix, and goes about it without complaints. She hums and sings as regularly as she smiles, and is clearly happy with her simple life. Her home life is also running on all cylinders; she receives great support and love from her husband Stan (Phil Davis), and from her children Ethel (Alex Kelly) and Sid (Daniel Mays).

However, Vera has a secret that only she and her hard-nosed friend Lily (Ruth Sheen) are aware of. For over twenty years, Lily has been arranging meetings with girls and women who have found themselves pregnant and feel they cannot have the baby. She sends them to Vera, who performs a simple little procedure to “get things right as rain again”, i.e. abortion. Vera doesn’t charge the girls, and does it because she truly feels that she is helping them, and sees nothing wrong with her actions. When one of the girls nearly dies from the procedure, Vera is arrested, and must face the consequences, with the law, and with her family.

Abortion has been debated for years by people who are either strongly opposed to it, strongly in favor of it, or straddle the fence, because they don’t want to offend anyone. Many Christians fall into the latter group, not wanting to seem narrow-minded by their “open minded” friends. Others wear their opinions and feelings on their sleeves, not caring who hears or what they may think. If any Christian out there reading this review doesn’t know where they stand on the issue, let me simply state a verse that I feel says everything we need to know about the issue. Exodus 20:13 says “You shall not murder”. Abortion is the murder of an unborn child; there isn’t really any way around that. The verse doesn’t gives us any exceptions to when it would be alright to murder, no asterisk saying *unless a girl is raped and cannot see herself having the child, or *except for a case of incest.

Life Before BirthHave questions about life before birth, or a woman’s choice about pregnancy and abortion? Visit this beautiful on-line presentation. Ask questions; get reliable answers.

“Vera Drake” also contains a subplot about a family friend, who is raped, and goes through the legal process of obtaining an abortion, and has to pay a great deal of money for it. The movie makes the case that people with money can afford abortion, or any other operation or procedure they may need, and it is legal, while at the same time, it is illegal for those less fortunate [see our on-line responses: re: rape/incest cases and poor vs. rich].

Some who see this film will say that director Mike Leigh has created a film to subtly work his pro-choice beliefs into our minds. I would be inclined to agree to some extent, but to me, the movie is more about the characters than it is about the idea of abortion. I was fascinated by the character of Vera Drake, who we learn a great deal about, including a reason she may feel so inclined to help the girls. As I watched the film, I couldn’t help but notice that no mention of God is ever made; no one ever asks Vera if what she does is morally wrong.

She knows it is illegal to perform the abortions, but doesn’t see anything wrong with the procedure, because she doesn’t seem to have any religious background to speak of. So, of course she is going to want to help the girls; people who commit sin often do so because they don’t have the moral conscience that comes with either knowing God or at least knowing about Him. I know little about 1950s England, but I suppose it is conceivable that someone could have lived their life without many Christian influences guiding their ways. This, at least, may help explain why she truly believes she is helping the girls out.

The content of the film itself is mild. There is a tiny dab of language here and there, but nothing worth note. We do see the beginning of a rape scene, but don’t see anything graphic. We see Vera perform a few of the procedures, which consist of sticking a syringe inside the women, and filling them with the liquid that will terminate the pregnancy. Some may find these scenes rater disturbing.

“Vera Drake” is not for everyone. The topic will keep many away, and the thick accents and slow pacing will keep more from seeing it. Most who do see the film will do so because of the performances. Staunton is remarkable as Drake, and the supporting cast also turns in moving, heartfelt performances. As a character study and a look into the life of someone spiritually lost who hasn’t been exposed to a better life in Christ, “Vera Drake” is a fascinating film. But, if you are looking for a film that takes a stand one way or the other about abortion, you are bound to be disappointed, one way or the other.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Mild

Year of Release—2004

See list of Relevant Issues.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—Christians need to know the world and how it works. True, this is a history lesson rather than a sociology lesson, but the world hasn’t changed so much that we can’t all learn something. Leigh offers an opportunity to weigh the soul of Vera Drake, taking into account her sins and her good deeds. The problem here is that to many, her good deeds are her sins. Outright condemnation of the film shows that it hasn’t been considered as the director intended, but rather passed over with glib trite comments. Yes, it will offend those who shelter themselves behind gospel and scripture, but some people need to see the world in order to make up their minds. And unless you’ve made up your own mind, on your own and with all the facts at your disposal, your opinion is not worth having.
My Ratings: Average/4
—Andiarre Geoghan, age 26
Negative
Negative—I just wanted to drop my ten cents—accoriding to an article in USA Today, the director said he purposely made this film to combat those who want to limit abortion rights. He further stated that he made sure that it came out before the elections and voiced his disappointment that it did not have the effect he wanted it to have, as evidenced by Bush’s win.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive
—Christina, age 32
Movie Critics
…comes off as didactic and outdated. It’s almost as if a propaganda film made by Planned Parenthood had resurfaced after decades in storage…
—Lewis Beale, Film Journal International
…a fine, if thoroughly manipulative, movie that presents an extreme and extremely sympathetic case for abortion. It’s the kind of hypothetical situation pro-choicers would conjure in a debate, building and building to the moment that concludes, “Surely in this case…” You won’t find even a hint of a rebuttal… ignores the other side…
—Ed Blank, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
…not a cheery film, but it is a fine one…
—Jean Lowerison, San Diego Metro
…Pass the Zoloft. Earnest, well-acted and suffocating, Mike Leigh’s “Vera Drake” is a sentimental portrait of feminist martyrdom. Some movies are uplifting; this is like medicine that cures you but tastes like hell…
—James Verniere, Boston Herald
…The period detail is astonishing in every respect. The characters smack of genuine honesty and are played throughout by actors whose attention to nuance is as fully developed as Leigh’s. All technical aspects are first rate…
—Ray Bennett, The Hollywood Reporter