Vera Drake

Artykuł pochodzi z pisma "Guardian"

Vera Drake

Vera Drake: portrait of a serial killer. It wouldn't be an entirely inapposite subtitle for this masterly movie. Mike Leigh captures his heroine's secret life, her modus operandi and her final calamity with the icy skill belonging to a master of suspense. It is as gripping and fascinating as the best thriller, as well as being a stunningly acted and heartwrenchingly moving drama of the postwar London working class. Imelda Staunton has already picked up an armful of awards for her performance as Vera Drake, the middle-aged cleaning lady with a hidden existence. She will certainly collect a whole lot more.
It is 1950, and Vera is cheerfully getting on with things. She pops in to help neighbours, nurses her elderly mother and looks after the family. But this life co-exists with, to paraphrase another Leigh title, a secret and a lie: something she's kept quiet from everyone, including her loved ones. With her trusty kit-bag of syringe and other assorted implements, Vera has for decades been "helping out" wretched girls who have "got themselves into trouble". Not just girls, either, but exhausted and despairing married women who can't possibly feed another mouth. With a chirpy smile, Vera arrives in their flats, puts the kettle on (for all the world as if she was making a nice cup of tea), and tells them briskly to pop themselves on the bed and take their underwear off. For this service, Vera does not accept a penny piece. She does it out of the Christian goodness of her heart, although it is to become horribly clear that Vera is being exploited by the grasping black-marketeer who fixes these appointments.
Vera's vocation as an abortionist exists entirely within the concentric circles of criminal concealment and euphemistic taboo. It is not merely that it is a secret from the authorities: it is a secret from Vera herself. She has no language to describe what she does or reflect on it in any way. The closest she comes to telling the miserable women what will happen to them after their appallingly dangerous treatment is to say that they will soon get a pain "down below", at which point they should go to the lavatory and "it will come away". So when one of these women is taken to hospital almost dying in agony, and poor respectable Vera is confronted by the police, she is as hapless and hopeless as her victim-patients, with no way of defending or explaining herself. Her only response is mutely to absorb unimaginable quantities of shame.
Vera has withheld this awful business from everyone as naturally and unworriedly as a midwife of the period would conceal the moment of childbirth from the expectant father. It is just a job, and Leigh gives us his trademark scenes showing the customer class: in Secrets & Lies, it was Timothy Spall's photographic subjects; in All or Nothing, it was his minicab fares. Now it is women about to undergo illegal abortions.
Vera Drake's overwhelming mood of danger and transgression reminded me of the moment in Michael Powell's Peeping Tom when the seedy newsagent and his furtive customer quickly hide the pornography as an innocent girl comes in to buy sweets. Leigh pitilessly captures a similar kind of unmentionable fear and disgrace to which working women were subject - but which the middle classes with money and contacts could avoid. And, with a tragedian's ruthlessness, he etches that same fear and disgrace on Drake's face, too, when she is caught. It is the face of someone forced to acknowledge the elephant in the living room. Imelda Staunton's Vera simultaneously ages 30 years and becomes a terrified little girl. It is one of the most moving, haunting performances I have ever seen in the cinema.
The triumph of the film is in unselfconsciously juxtaposing Vera's crime with her ordinary public life as wife and mother, and with making us care about this other story just as much or even more. With compassion and gentleness, Leigh tells us about her husband Stan (Phil Davis) and his life in the motor trade with a brother who, despite having done better for himself materially, envies Stan's simple happiness. Vera welcomes into hearth and home a lonely neighbour, Reg (Eddie Marsan) who, movingly, becomes part of the family. Leigh has, in particular, two superbly managed scenes: Stan and Reg's good-natured, mutually respectful discussion of what sort of war they'd had, and Vera's son Sid (Daniel Mays), a tailor, selling a suit to a young Irishman preparing to go home for a wedding. These are moments worthy of the lyrical 1940s film-maker Humphrey Jennings, whose documentary-collage Listen to Britain must have been an inspiration for much of Leigh's film.
Now, it might prove tempting for the movie's distributors to market Vera Drake as a provocatively "neutral" talking point on abortion for the benefit of American moviegoers and, indeed, Oscar voters. But there is actually no fence-sitting on the issue. Leigh's coup is to transfer the sympathy and dramatic emphasis away from the pregnant woman to the abortionist herself - a brilliant upending of the traditional stereotypes and pieties. This is not, however, the same thing as neutrality, and the film plainly shows the squalid hypocrisy of Britain before the Abortion Act. Vera Drake looks to me like a fully formed modern tragedy with a towering central performance from Imelda Staunton as poor, muddled Vera - and Staunton couldn't be so good if she was not given such superb support. This could be Mike Leigh's masterpiece: that is, his masterpiece so far, because at 61 years old, he shows every sign of entering a glorious late period of artistry and power.

appallingly- bulwersująco
assorted- dobrany, dopasowny
capture- uchwycić
chirpy- w dobrym nastroju
concealment- zatajenie, ukrycie
coup- wyczyn; zamach stanu
disgrace- wstyd, hańba
etch- ryć, wyryć
expectant father- przyszły ojciec
fare- opłata za przejazd
fence-sitting- zachowanie neutralnego stanowiska
furtive- ukradkowy, skryty
grasping- chciwy, zachłanny
gripping- pasjonujący, fascynujący
hapless- niefortunny
haunting- pozostający w pamięci
heartwrenchingly- boleśnie, w sposób łamiący serce
implement- przyrząd, narzędzie
inapposite- niewłaściwy, niestosowny
juxtapose- porównywać, zestawiać
kit-bag- torba z narzędziami lekarskimi
minicab- taksówka
muddled- zdezorientowany
mutually- wzajemnie, obustronnie
overwhelming- przytłaczający
piety- pobożność
pop oneself on- wskakiwać na coś
ruthlessness- bezwzględność
seedy- obdarty, podniszczony
simultaneously- równocześnie
squalid- brudny, nędzny, odrapany
superb- znakomity, rewelacyjny
superbly- znakomicie, rewelacyjnie
tempting- kuszący
to be subject to- być poddanym (czemuś)
tower- górować
unmentionable- niecenzuralny, nie nadający się do powtórzenia
unselfconsciously- bez żenady
upending- pokonanie; wywrócenie
withhold- ukrywać; wstrzymywać


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