an After abortion

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Monday, October 11, 2004

James Bowman reviews Vera Drake:

The only person in the film, toff or ordinary, who attempts any real defense of the legal and moral status quo — as opposed, that is, to simply accepting it — is poor Sid, the young tailor who offers women’s nylons in exchange for cigarettes to his mates who are courting. Never having questioned the uses to which those nylons are presumably being put when these young men would a-wooing go, Sid nevertheless confidently blames his mother: "It’s wrong, isn’t it?" he says tearfully to his father. "It’s little babies. . .It’s dirty."

Stan doesn’t answer directly. Instead he says: "You can forgive her, Sid. She’s your mum. She’d forgive you anything, wouldn’t she?" Later he remarks: "Everything’s black and white for Sid. He’s young."

I think what he does not mean by this is that the taking of innocent life in the womb is a moral "grey area," let alone that he approves of it. Like everyone else in this time and place, as for centuries previous to it, Stan would naturally assume that abortion is, as Sid describes it, wrong and dirty. He tells Sid he would have put a stop to it if Vera had told him what she was doing. Even Vera is ashamed of what she does and still more ashamed at the idea that her family must know about it. But this world of repression and disguise that both fascinates and appalls Mike Leigh also leaves room for compassion for those who do wrong — which may be the wiser course than trying to make wrong right, as we have done since their time.

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