Director Luc Beeson, previously responsible for directing The Fith Element and writing Taken, has opted for a more serious approach with his most recent work The Lady; a biographical piece depicting the political activism and house arrest of nobel peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi under the dictatorial military regime of the Burmese Tatmadaw. However, despite his best efforts, Luc Beeson is clearly out of his depth and, whilst it is by no means a bad film, The Lady fails to stand alongside works such as The Last King of Scotland or Schindler’s List whose attempts at capturing life under totalitarian human rights abuses are far more poignant.
Despite the the film’s flaws the acting of the main cast is brilliant; Michelle Yeoh learnt Burmese and studied 200 hours of footage to prepare for her role as Aung San Suu Kyi and it shows; she captures the spirit of the mother-of-two turned political activist flawlessly and draws the audience in with the later emotional sections of the film. David Thewlis, playing Aung San Suu Kyi’s husband, follows suit and there’s a believable chemistry between the two. The downside to this is that the acting of the supporting cast, which is comparable to a news reporter dully enunciating lines from a teleprompter, and stands out as particularly awful to the extent that it distracts from the actual plot.
No matter how good the acting may be, it fails to breathe life into the otherwise stale characters of The Lady. They become far to idealistic, Aung San Suu Kyi is a symbol of democracy, of peace and of motherhood and it’s not until the end of the film that she gains any kind of emotional depth. They work far better as living symbols than as actual people and ultimately the struggle of Burma is exemplified to the detriment of the characters who simply become a vehicle for political activism.
However, chaos is difficult to choreograph and, despite his best efforts, Beeson never really manages to capture the feeling of repression under a totalitarian dictator. At points the film even draws on the feeling of a feel-good film and, whilst 127 hours has shown us that feel-good and tragic motifs can be combined to create a heart-breaking experience, here it doesn’t quite fit.
Amidst these flaws The Lady does have it’s moments. However, one leaves the cinema with the feeling that Aung San Suu Kyi hasn’t received the cinematic debut she quite deserved.