A movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
One depressing thing about this movie is what it points out about "developed" Western societies: there are two levels of access to medical services, one for the rich, and one for the poor. It's similar to Fahrenheit 9/11 in that regard, which showed that it is not the children of the elite who are fighting and dying in Iraq, it is the children of the middle class and working poor.
In Vera Drake, we see what it was like in post-war England to be young, female, and single -- and pregnant. If your family had money, you could game the medical and legal system to obtain a safe legal abortion. If you were poor -- or working poor -- you went to someone like Vera for a dangerous"back alley" abortion.
What must be infuriating about this film to people who are able to view abortion in black and white terms is that Vera, a loving middle aged London working class wife in 1950 who cleans houses for the upper class for a living, views the abortions she performs as an extension of her natural desire to help people who are in trouble. Vera constantly goes out of her way to help her family and the people around her, most of whom have absolutely no idea that after hours she performs abortions.
She accepts no money for her services. We find out later why she does this, but by then her life and the lives of her family are wrecked by her being arrested for doing for the poor what the rich have no problem accessing.
Actually, that's not true. We do see in this movie what one well-off young woman has to do after being raped to obtain an abortion. She has a difficult time since even though it was she who was raped that she must lie and debase herself in order to qualify for the services that are denied to her poorer sisters.
If you are against freedom of choice about abortion, you may not like this movie. It does not demonize the people involved and forces us to see them as sympathetic real people who have to make awful choices.
If you are"pro-choice" person, what you see here is the gamut of human frailty ranging from those who want to do nothing to help people, to people who are willing to take advantage of people in dire situations.
I don't know anything about the people responsible for this movie, but I suspect they have some personal experience with the situations that are presented here. They've also done their homework about what post-war England was like. The atmospheric reality is amazing.
But this is a sad movie. That so many people find abortion necessary is clearly a tragedy. That so many in society so readily condemn those who must deal with these issues on a personal basis is also a tragedy.