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(3.5 STARS) Luc Besson's Bio-pic of Aung San Suu Kyi Looks More Like a Love Story
, August 24, 2012
This review is from: The Lady (DVD)
"The Lady," a biographical picture of Aung San Suu Kyi, is directed by Luc Besson, best known for his "La Femme Nikita," "Léon: The Professional" and "The Fifth Element." Michelle Yeoh plays the role of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese political and human rights activist. David Thewlis is her husband Dr. Michael Aris. (Thewlis also plays his twin brother Anthony.)
"The Lady" starts in 1947. General Aung San was assassinated when his daughter Aung San Suu Kyi was only two years old. About forty years later, Aung San Suu Kyi, now living in Oxford with her husband and two sons, receives a call from Burma. Her mother is ill and in hospital. Aung San Suu Kyi flies back to Burma, where, witnessing the student protests and the bloody suppression of it, she decides to stay and become a leader of the movement for democracy.
Yes, it's Luc Besson and his usual collaborators cinematographer Thierry Arbogast and composer Eric Serra. Unlike in most of his films (including his recent "Arthur" trilogy), his new film is not about a fantastical universe or underworld based on his wild imagination, but about a real-life person who is alive and in the middle of her political career. Actually, Besson made a "bio-pic" once, but I don't think historical accuracy was priority No.1 in making "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc" for him.
While following her life as a political activist in Burma, Besson also tries to tell us a story of her relationship with her husband Michael Aris. In this way we get to see both her public and private face but despite the film's touching finale, "The Lady" suffers from its uneven pace that sometimes feels rushed. Most people other than Aung San Suu Kyi, and Michael Aris - generals, soldiers or citizens, whether Burmese or British - are relegated to caricatures or cyphers.
Acting is excellent. Michelle Yeoh plays the role of Aung San Suu Kyi with grace and dignity while David Thewlis turns in a moving performance as her husband supporting her even when he is thousands of miles away from her. Their strong bond is the driving force of the film, accompanied by the compelling photography.
"The Lady" puts more focus on the relationship between Aung San Suu Kyi and Michael Aris, than her political career, for better or for worse. As a love story it works, thanks to the strong performances from the leads; as a biographical picture of Aung San Suu Kyi as one of the world's most iconic figures, perhaps we should wait for another film to be made, or read books.
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