The Lady (2011) Review

When faced with caring for her ailing mother, the daughter of a slain general must return to a homeland ravaged by the regime who stole her father’s life. Her journey of insoluble patience and lyrical grace amid senseless violence and exceptional private turmoil is breathtaking and triumphant.

Director Luc Besson has crafted a masterpiece in the gentle telling of a wife and mother who is forced to balance her love for her country against her love for her family. The Lady is a synergy of the harsh reality of modern military occupation and the effect it has on parties of either side.

Michelle Yeoh is a ‘steel orchid’ as Nobel Peace Prize Winning Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi. David Thewlis is Michael, her kind and ever capable husband. Together, they are a romantic pairing for the ages. As Suu’s political star climbs, he forsakes any claims on tradition to make himself the steadfast partner she needs to further the availability of democracy to the forsaken and forlorn Schwedagon people.

The accomplishments and accolades of Aung San Suu Kyi have been documented by the world nations and the Associated Press. However, it is the humanity in the backdrop of the severe military influence that pulls the audience into her world. Such extreme disconnection is unimaginable in this contemporary time of smartphones and GPS, though its existence remains constant.

Years into the exile of house arrest, in a distant land, away from her sons and husband, the humiliation of having no ties to the outside world is made corporeal. A random and joyous turn at the piano marks a guard’s first exposure to music. It is a sound foreign to him in light of a youth spent among gunfire and power struggles. It is here in these misguided and wayward souls that audiences find the need that so represents the democracy ever necessary for the people of Burma. It was this story that yearned to be told.

The script, in its entirety, was completed and comprised of interviews. It took three years of crafting and editing for writer Rebecca Frayn to mold this tale of travesty and intent. No truer account can be given of Burma’s reigning heroine or the loyal participants of the National League for Democracy.

Shot carefully on location near Burma as well as in Thailand and London, the spoken languages of the film are English intertwined with local and Burmese dialects. Studying only six months in preparation, the beauty and accuracy of Michelle Yeoh’s intonation and accent is delicate and superb. The lilt of the Burmese rises and flows like the lush vegetation so rampant throughout the country.

Non-urban locals of Rangoon are captured in their royal dress as masses join to welcome the traveling democrats along Suu’s campaign trail. Necklaces woven of flowers and thick chokers of gold are worn in celebration of the customs and traditions of the people. The piety of these citizens serves to emphasize the catastrophe of the iron-fisted regimen of the current government. Guns are pointed in the faces of the weaponless as the disservice of generations meets its slow end.

City scenes are likened to the tightknit sub-cultures so often found within urban areas. Suu’s ability to sweetly look danger in the eye is reenacted by supporters for its awe-inspiring strength and street corner gossip accessibility. She is a savior many lifetimes in the making.

Much was given to historical accuracy. Although filming was unable to take place in many locations along the actual campaign trail including the family estate, audiences will never doubt the authenticity of the visual imagery. The home of Aung San Suu Kyi’s family in Burma was recreated entirely from pictures with many antiques acquired to heighten impact. Scenes shot in Rangoon carry the haunting and ethereal conduit that is uniquely Dan (Aunt) Suu.

Composer Eric Serra has blended the sounds of the land with the plight of justice. His melodies echo and coincide with the sacrifice and endurance of selfless love. Strings and percussion swell and spin as they transport the spirit of a nation.

Though The Lady is the epic saga of a humanitarian, audiences will leave theaters having witnessed the bittersweet struggle of a family caught between justice and peace.