Mike Leigh's Oscar-nominated, Bafta award-winning film is set in post-war London and stars Imelda Staunton as the eponymous Vera Drake. Living in a crowded flat with her husband, Stan (Philip Davis), and family, she is a bastion of the neighbourhood, popping in to check on sickly neighbours and inviting lonely bachelor Reg (Eddie Marsan) to supper, while she's also a treasure of a cleaner to a rich family. And she's also, unbeknown to her family, an abortionist.
She doesn't do it for the money (although her friend Lily (Ruth Sheen), who effects the introductions, quietly relieves the girls of two guineas). Vera does it to help girls in trouble and, in one memorable scene, a married woman who simply cannot afford another mouth to feed. She sees being helpful in the same vein as looking out for her neighbours. But her world falls apart when one abortion almost leads to death and the girl tells the police Vera's name. As the family sit down to tea, DI Webster (Peter Wight) knocks on the door...
Leigh's film, released in 2004, is a beautifully caught and articulated story about 1950s British society. The sharp divisions between Drake and the family she cleans for are rightly extenuated, as the daughter Susan (Sally Hawkins) becomes pregnant by her boyfriend but, because she can afford £100, is referred by a psychiatrist to a private clinic. But Leigh also shows the warmth of the Drake family, who, finding their lives shattered, still stand firm.
A stunning film.