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In this shattering drama about the unintended consequences of virtue, Vera Drake (a superb, Oscar-nominated performance by Imelda Staunton)—hardworking cleaning woman, fond mother of two, friendly neighbor—has a secret: she helps out women who find themselves “in trouble” with unwanted pregnancies. As this illegal activity comes to light, its ramifications tear apart her family and the world around her. Leigh abjures satire for compassion and moral complexity, employing a meticulously controlled realism in portraying a precise historical moment—Great Britain in the early 1950s, still shell-shocked from World War II, pulling itself up out of drabness and shortage. In the process, the values of decency, stoical restraint, and class solidarity are put to the test, the admirable commingled with the hypocritical. An NYFF42 selection.