When we first see the title character in Vera Drake, she is in her good cloth coat hurrying through the streets of 1950 London. She enters an old apartment building, climbs the stairs, and serves a cup of tea to an invalid. Then she hurries off to help someone else. She meets Reg, a lonely war veteran on the street, and invites him to join her family for tea. Helping people is what Vera does. She does whatever she can for anyone she meets. No act of Parliament passed in 1861 will stop her.
Two days after seeing Vera Drake, I see it in my memory as a black and white film. The stills on the Internet Movie Database prove to me that it was in color, but the director Mike Leigh kept the colors very muted to depict post-war London as a bleak and almost ancient place. We know at first glance that the scene is not contemporary. Great effort went into the film to make the movie historically accurate. The lead researcher is credited at the beginning with the actors and the director.
Vera is the center of her family. When she is withdrawn from her home, her husband, son, and daughter are nearly paralyzed. With her arrest, her ladies lose the best maid they could ever hope to employ. Countless invalids go without tea. Someone else must help the young girls.
Vera Drake is an excellent movie. It is very anti-Hollywood in its story telling. Mike Leigh uses silence and lets the actors have time to express their emotions. He also extends the film past the point at which Vera’s fate is determined to let us see what the impact is on her family. Few directors seem to really care enough to complete their stories. Leigh is a master of his art.
Vera Drake is now available in DVD and should be in most library collections.