Mike Leigh's Vera Drake has already been dubbed “the best British film of the year” and this may not be unwarranted praise. The veteran director continues his commentary on British society (previous films include Secrets and Lies and Topsy Turvy) showing his aptitude for forming complex characterisations and his skill in dealing with important social issues. In this film, he explores the actions of a back street abortionist in postwar London, through the life of Vera Drake.
Vera Drake (Imelda Staunton) is portrayed as an angelic 1950s housewife who cheerily goes about her day amid the austerity of postwar London. She is depicted as a selfless saint who tends to her elderly mother, checks on her invalid neighbour, and invites lonely war veterans to dinner in the flat she shares with her husband, Stan (Phil Davis), and children, Sid (Daniel Mays) and the introverted Ethel (Alex Kelly). She also cleans