Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Vera Drake

When this film was released in the cinemas I refused to go because I didn't want to help finance a pro-choice film but desperately wanted to see it so when it was premiered on terrestrial television on Sunday I had to break my 'bed before 10' rule and watch it. It is a beautifully made film with a stunning cast, script and plot but it left me confused as to what position it took.

At first it looked very pro-choice comparing the cold, impersonal world of psychiatry and brutality of the nurses at the home for pregnant women (someone please advise correct title for this institution) to the friendly, comfortable world of the back street abortionist. Then as the film goes on it explores the psychology of the women, the girl who went to the home isn't happy but compared to the sorrow, pain and anguish of the girls who are under the care of Mrs Drake she is content.

Vera is discovered when one of '[her] girls' almost dies as a result of the abortion and this is where the positioning of the film makers becomes interesting. She is arrested, tried and sent to prison. Between the arrest and trial she is granted bail and goes home for a month, her husband is upset at what she has been doing behind his back for 20 years but supports her 'for better or worse', her daughter has the same attitude. Her son cannot even look her in the face, he tells her exactly what her thinks of her for 'murdering innocent little babies', but his father later reminds him that his mother would forgive him for anything he did because se loves him and while he cannot accept what she has done he forgives her because he loves her.

The sentence also interested me, Vera Drake was given two and a half years in prison for putting the life of a young woman in danger, not life for murdering an unborn child. When she gets to prison she meets two other back street abortionists and discover they each got 3 and 4 years because their actions killed '[their] girls'. This is 1950/1951, you can see that the country is getting closer to making abortion legal.

My final view of the film is that it might be against abortion itself but for the legality of abortion so as to stop dangerous back street abortions (the reason the Abortion Act was instituted in the first place). If you have seen the film let me know what your thoughts were.


People's Blog said...

It was a good film. Clever in that it avoided making any obvious judgements and allowed the viewer to think about the issues. Pro-life campaigners can be as militant as pro-choicers and do their cause more harm than good. We have to be careful when we present our viewpoint that we do it with great sensitivity. We can seldom understand someone else's situation until we have walked in their shoes. Vera was a sympathetic character who naively justified her actions within the context of a deeply impoverished post-war Britain and a morally judgemental society. What she did was wrong but that did not make her a bad person, but perhaps misguided.

Anonymous said...

It's NOT about abortion. It's a study of relationships and family life. It's Mike Leigh. He always does that - and to great effect too! You could do with 'lightening up'.

Orthfully Catholic said...

Indeed it is true that this is Mike Leigh's forte, however, as a staunch pro-lifer and film buff I am very interested in films that enter this arena.

Anonymous said...

I was interested in the cyclical nature of Vera perpetuating what was done for/to her - as suggested by the question 'did this happen to you?'.