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Lady, The


Stars: Michelle Yeoh, David Thewlis, Jonathan Raggett, Jonathan Woodhouse, Susan Wooldridge, Benedict Wong, Htun Lin, Agga Poechit

Director: Luc Besson

Yeoh, probably best known for her action roles in such films as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Tomorrow Never Dies and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, gives a vivid and convincing portrayal of Burmese political heroine Aung San Suu Kyi in this effective biopic. While Rebecca Frayn’s screenplay is a tad light on political detail that is probably to be expected in a movie that plays to its potential audiences by concentrating rather more on its subject’s personal relationships with husband and children than delivering a deeply researched political polemic.

Kyi’s story begins in 1947 Rangoon where Yeoh’s activist father is killed. Years later she is happily married to Thewlis with two sons and living in Oxford with her husband, when she has to return to Burma because her mother is ill.

Appalled by the brutalities of her country’s military rulers that she witnesses, she decides to stay on. She joins a new democracy party and campaigns vigorously. But after they win the election, a dictatorial general puts her under house arrest where she is cut off from the world and her family for 15 years…

Yeoh brings her character to life, skilfully underplaying scenes which could easily tip over into melodrama, and is well supported by Thewlis (who also plays his twin brother at one slightly surprising juncture), whose performance as a sensitive man fighting for his wife and family while battling terminal cancer adds impact to the story.

Thailand, too, gives an attractive performance standing in (apart from some stolen scenes on Burmese locations) for Burma and is beautifully filmed by Thierry Arbogast. I was impressed, too, by Besson’s careful direction. True The Lady is a little bit overlong. That said, Besson, rather better known for action thrillers pictures such as Taxi and Transporter 3, bends his talents towards the subject rather than stressing his credentials as an auteur.

Alan Frank

France/UK 2012. UK Distributor: Entertainment Film Distributors. Technicolor.
132 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 01 Jan 2012