Rental Unit: "Vera Drake" 

Realism tends to denote accuracy — of buildings, clothing, hairstyles. In "Vera Drake" they are exquisitely reproduced. But the chief attribute is its people, as vividly real as if director Mike Leigh ("Topsy-Turvy") had been cultivating them all these years in his backyard. The characters have a strange, calming affect, making the interruption of the authorities all the more traumatizing. It's all so real and moving, and helps keep the proceedings from devolving into melodrama.

Leigh and his writer don't provide easy answers. Staunton's Vera is saintly, but no saint. She is both guilty of her own ignorance and a victim of it, just as the society that condemns her is both right in stopping such a practice and overzealous in its prosecution. "Vera Drake" is tough to watch, and not easy to dismiss. — Wayne Melton



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