Tony Whitehead
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‘Out of the kindness of her heart’
Vera Drake
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This chapter illustrates Mike Leigh's feature film Vera Drake, which was his second cinematic venture into period drama, and was set within living memory for a substantial proportion of a 2004 audience; and dealing with a subject about which it is virtually impossible to remain neutral. The film deals with the subject of the clash between an abortionist's views and the mores of 1950s Britain. This chapter exclaims that anyone who saw the television presentation of that year's BAFTAs would remember Leigh's genuine, open-mouthed astonishment when his name was announced. It was an endearing moment, as well as a heartening one. BAFTA named Leigh as the year's best director for this film. So with great critical acclaim, good distribution and audience reaction, and awards at home and abroad, Vera Drake could fairly be described not only as a major work, dealing humanely and powerfully with a difficult and highly inflammatory issue, but also as a breakthrough with which Leigh shows every sign of entering a glorious late period of artistry and power.

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