Animadversion: Portrait of a lady
For a director known for genre-heavy action films, Luc Besson shows a knack for patience and poise in The Lady — a biopic about Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and political leader of Myanmar (former Burma).
The film starts in 1947 with Aung San at a time when one of the country’s great freedom fighters is assassinated. His daughter, Suu Kyi, is just two at the time. Years later, in the ’80s, a grown Suu Kyi (Michelle Yeoh of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) decides to write a book about her father. She is now settled in Oxford and lives the role of a happy housewife. Her husband is professor Michael Aris (David Thewlis) and their two sons are Alex (Jonathan Woodhouse) and Kim (Jonathan Raggett).
When Suu Kyi is called back home to care for her ailing mother, she understands Rangoon’s desperation for political stability.
Soon, she is approached to run for the upcoming elections, and in turn the country’s dictatorship retaliates. Her family’s visas are revoked indefinitely and she is put under house arrest for the next 15 years to isolate her effect on the country’s politics.
Through the years, we see Michael and her boys supporting her from afar.
The background of The Lady is the struggle and oppression of the Burmese people and Suu Kyi, and the love between her, Michael and their family — which is the strongest asset of the film. But the film’s best asset is also its biggest drawback. A good part of the film is told from Michael’s angle that takes the attention away from Suu Kyi.
The Lady (written by Rebecca Frayn) is two hours well spent with fine acting by Yeoh and Thewlis, a glowing score by Éric Serra and gorgeous cinematography by Thierry Arbogast.
Luc Besson does a respectable job while being far from his type of adrenaline-powered action comedies (Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita, The Professional). For the entirety of the film, he keeps a firm grip on drama and never goes over the top with the violence. The film’s silent moments are more audible than the roaring, blockbuster-ish ones.
The Lady is rated R for its themes; there’s nothing gross, disgusting or adult in the film.