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May 2012

The Lady

cast: Michelle Yeoh, David Thewlis, Jonathan Raggett, Jonathan Woodhouse, and Susan Wooldridge

director: Luc Besson

132 minutes (12) 2011
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
EIV blu-ray region B

RATING: 7/10
review by Christopher Geary

The Lady

Never mind that movie about the Tories' iron bitch... this is the true story of Suu Kyi, daughter of Burmese revolutionary leader Aung San, whose postwar assassination is depicted in the movie's prologue. After exorcising fantasy and comedy from his roster of projects in development, Luc Besson unexpectedly follows his highly entertaining The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010), with The Lady, turning away from genre cinema in favour of a standard biopic. Written by Rebecca Frayn, it is largely concerned with the forced long-term separation between former housewife Suu and her British husband Michael (David Thewlis).

In Oxford, 1998, Michael is dying of cancer, but his wife cannot afford to leave Burma - where she heads the National League for Democracy. Best known for action heroine roles in Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), and Ang Lee's wuxia masterpiece, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Michelle Yeoh delivers a marvellous performance as Suu Kyi - a Nobel peace prize winner, crusading democratic leader, and national heroine of Burma. We have seen bleak dramas of this country's entrenched violence, its political oppression, and beleaguered uprisings in dangerous territories, before, in the likes of John Boorman's Beyond Rangoon (1995), but this is a different take on the big issues of violence and freedom, and it's especially concerned with freedom from violence.

Although often denied entry into Burma to visit his wife, Michael is fully supportive of his wife's courageous stand against the bullying military, and in flashback scenes of the late 1980s, we see him photocopying political leaflets at the British embassy until his visa is cancelled and he's deported. The junta behind the military coup oppose any campaign for general elections, but Suu defies soldiers and refuses to give in to fierce intimidation at gunpoint. She does not scare easily, if at all.

Behind every great woman is a good cause. While Suu's hunger strike is ignored and proves ineffective during the years of her isolation, held under house arrest, she still demonstrates unwavering decency in the face of gross injustice and lack of humanity on the part of Burmese generals, portrayed as calculating tyrants, but also ridiculous officials, especially when they misuse a chief of police as their messenger boy.

"The art of people is a true mirror of their minds," becomes one of Suu's philosophical tenets and, with such a views, it is tragically appropriate that she is driven to choose between her husband and children, or her country, though of course that is no kind of freedom at all. The Lady is, basically, a love story of epic quality that's profoundly moving and earnest in it politics, rather than a powerfully dramatic indictment of a regime where democracy is hindered by the machinations of slimy brutes in uniforms.



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