In the Dark

Saint Aborta and the Molesters

Vera Drake
Produced by Thin Man Films and Studio Canal
Written and directed by Mike Leigh
Distributed by New Line Cinema

Birth
Produced and distributed by Fine Line Features
Directed by Jonathan Glazer
Screenplay by Jean-Claude Carrière and Milo Addica

Mike Leigh, one of Britain’s socialist directors, begins and ends his latest effort, Vera Drake, with plangent harp strings backed by a keening choir.  It is music orchestrated to canonize his title character, who is, in a very modern sense of an old-fashioned word, a saint.

We first meet the eponymous Vera hurrying through the low-rent council-housing streets of 1950 London.  After a long day’s labor, she is eager to get home.  She talks and sings to herself with that bustling cheer one notices in the truly selfless.  This woman has never dreamt of complaining about her lot in life.  Through sheer goodwill, she has transformed the cramped four-room apartment she shares with her husband and their two grown children into a cozy wonder of domestic felicity.  She supplements her husband’s modest income by cleaning the homes of the wealthy, and she somehow manages also to tend to the needs of many others—her apartment-bound mum, an invalid neighbor, a young veteran down on his luck.  What’s more, this angel...

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