Politically speaking, I am an unreformed liberal. I’m a radical civil libertarian and my views on economic issues can be considered most similar to European socialism. So a film whose primary hero is a British woman performing illegal abortions in the 1950’s sounded like something that I could really get behind. And while, I found the pro-choice message of the film to be very courageous and the performance of its lead to be absolutely fantastic, the movie was ultimately quite dull and by the half way point of the film, I had picked up my history of the Oscar’s book and was only paying about half-attention to the movie because it had lost me.

Vera Drake is the story of the titular main character (played flawlessly by Imelda Staunton) who is a maid in 1950’s England, and also a loving wife and family woman. However, in her spare time and for no monetary reward at all, she helps women abort unwanted pregnancies by intentionally inducing miscarriages. At this point in England, abortions are still illegal and eventually the police become aware of her activities, and the film becomes a morality tale about the way that a woman’s life can be ruined simply because she was simply trying to help out those in need.

Before I saw this film, my primary exposure to Imelda Staunton’s fantastic acting ability was through her role as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films where she gives perhaps one of the best performances in the entire series if not “the” best performance. Well, now I’ve seen her in another light, in a role that couldn’t be further from Umbridge. She just gives an incredibly under-stated, yet powerfully emotional performance as the lead role. And when her life starts to fall apart, she can’t comprehend how what she did was in any way wrong, and the transformation from this cheery, positive woman to someone whose life is practically over is just heart-breaking and possibly the only redeeming aspect of the film besides its message and theme. Her performance is simply transcendental, and I can’t make up my mind whether or not she should have beat Hilary Swank for Million Dollar Baby at that year’s Oscar’s. Since I consider Swank to be one of the best female actresses of her generation, consider this a testament to Staunton’s acting chops.

I really wanted to like this film. I had read a lot of great things about it, and I support the sort of message its laying out there. It just needed some serious editing and something to make it feel more alive and to emotionally invest me more in these characters’ lives. If you’re a fan of great acting, you should give this one a twirl because Imelda Staunton is simply amazing. If you’re pro-choice, you should also consider watching it. However, I can’t recommend this to everyone and I probably won’t watch it again at any point in the foreseeable future.

Final Score: B

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