A Gift of Tea and Sympathy

With Vera Drake, Mike Leigh has made a film about abortion that is neither strident nor preachy

Vera Drake is a cheerful, frumpy little lady bustling about 1950s London, humming happily to herself. She visits the sick. She chats up the lonely. She dispenses cups of tea. And from time to time she helps young women who have got themselves "in trouble." That ugly word, abortion, never crosses her lips. And she never takes money for her illegal services.

Her ordinary, slightly fractious lower-middle-class family knows nothing about her secret life, which she has pursued for some 20 years, until one day when a patient of hers nearly dies after submitting to her "procedure" and she finds herself...