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Vera Drake

Vera Drake (2004)

At first glance, this poster for Mike Leigh’s 50’s set drama looks drab and unappealing, its bland colour scheme and triple image of Vera herself (as played by Imelda Staunton) lacking any appreciable vibrancy or vitality.  It’s a poster for a Mike Leigh movie, a dark, often uncompromising look at the life of a woman whose personal sense of morality was at odds with both society and the criminal justice system of the time.  It’s a hard sell, even with Leigh in the driving seat, but whatever your views on the movie itself, the poster is unassuming, yet brilliantly devised.

The main focus is obviously the triptych.  An image of Vera repeated against differing backgrounds that in some way reflect the description given of her in each panel.  In the first, she’s a Wife, and the wallpaper depicts a wild growth of branch and flower, a more sensual, earthy tone that emphasises the carnal nature of marriage.  It’s telling us that Vera is first and foremost a woman (which isn’t so obvious when watching the movie).  In the second panel, she’s a Mother, and the wallpaper is less attractive, more formal, its ordered pattern highlighting the conformity that Vera has taken on by having a child.  Her life is no longer as carefree as it was.

And then there is the final panel, a stark portrayal of Vera as a Criminal, the background a bare brick wall, the kind you might encounter in a prison cell.  It’s a powerful conclusion, reflecting the distance Vera has travelled from that first, happier, image.  Here is one woman’s journey in Life portrayed succinctly and with effortless flair.  This is a tremendously evocative poster – for a tremendously evocative and moving movie – and while the press quote may seem a little grandiose, there’s no denying that, as far as the poster goes, it really is “magnificent”.

Agree?  Disagree?  Feel free to let me know.