The Secret of Vera Drake

Vera Drake ( Vera Drake ‘s Secret in Latin America and Spain ) is a 2004 British filmdirected and written by director Mike Leigh , and starring Imelda Staunton . Through her main character, Vera Drake, the film recounts the subject of clandestine abortion through a kindly, humble woman who lives with her husband and older children. The film received the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and the Volpi Cup for Best Actress for Imelda Staunton .


Vera Drake is a woman dedicated to her family, takes care of her husband and her two grown children, her elderly mother and a sick neighbor. His shy daughter, Ethel, works in a lightbulb factory, and his son, Sid, is a tailor. Her husband, Stanley, is an auto mechanic. Although Vera and her family are of poor economic status, their strong family ties keep them together, seeing small acts of kindness of Vera to the many people she finds throughout her day. Vera works cleaning her house. However, and behind his family’s back, he also serves as a clandestine abortionist. She does not receive any money or compensation for this, believing that her help becomes a simple gesture of kindness. After one of her patients is about to die after an intervention, Vera is arrested by the police and placed in custody for questioning.

The film also contains a subplot on a young upper-class woman, Susan, the daughter of one of Vera’s businessmen. After being raped by one of her suitors, Susan ends up getting pregnant and asks a friend to put her in touch with a doctor, through whom she plans to have an abortion.


  • Imelda Staunton as Vera Drake.
  • Richard Graham as George.
  • Eddie Marsan as Reg.
  • Anna Keaveney as Nellie.
  • Sally Hawkins as Susan.
  • Alex Kelly as Ethel Drake.
  • Daniel Mays as Sid Drake.
  • Phil Davis as Stanley Drake.
  • Sam Troughton as David.
  • Ruth Sheen as Lily.
  • Adrian Scarborough as Frank.
  • Lesley Manville as Mrs. Wells
  • Marion Bailey as Mrs. Fowler
  • Lesley Sharp as Jessie Barnes.
  • Peter Wight as Det. Inspector Webster
  • Martin Savage as Det. Sergeant Vickers
  • Leo Bill as Ronny.
  • Jim Broadbent as Judge.

Reception of the critic

The film has a 92% approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes site , based on 155 comments. 1 While in Metacritic its acceptance reaches 83% over 40 comments. 2

Considering one of the best films of the year, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times expressed : “The strength of Leigh’s film is not that it is a film with a message, but it is a deep and true portrait of the lives it presents “. 3

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone also praised the film saying, “Using the face of Imelda Staunton as his canvas, crafts Leigh becomes a mobilizing powerful film that is unmissable and unforgettable”. 4


Oscar awards
Year Category Person Result
2004 Best Direction Mike Leigh Candidate
2004 Best actress Imelda Staunton Candidate
2004 Best Original Screenplay Mike Leigh Candidate
Golden Globes
Year Category Person Result
2004 Best Actress – Drama Imelda Staunton Candidate
Actors Guild Awards
Year Category Person Result
2004 Best actress Imelda Staunton Candidate
Venice Film Festival
Year Category Person Result
2004 Golden Lion for Best Picture Mike Leigh Winner
2004 Volpi Cup for the Best Actress Imelda Staunton Winner


  1. Back to top↑ File in Rotten Tomatoes
  2. Back to top↑ Metacritic
  3. Back to top↑ Chicago Sun Times Review
  4. Back to top↑ Rolling Stone Review