Biopic of Burma's First Lady
Title: The Lady
Director: Luc Besson
Apart from Nelson Mandela, Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi is undoubtedly one of the most revered international figures of recent history. So the award-winning French director Luc Besson is something of a strange choice to take on a biopic about Suu Kyi. Besson's extensive filmography of mostly action/thrillers and dramas includes movies such as The Fifth Element, Nikita, The Big Blue and Subway. However Besson has done a quite impressive job in bringing Suu Kyi's story to the screen. He has created a handsome film showing considerable restraint on his previous style and utmost respect for his subject.
Michelle Yeoh is not only outstanding in the lead role, she was also instrumental in the film actually being made. Yeoh manages to capture both a striking physical resemblance to Suu Kyi and also to wonderfully recreate the grace, calm and dignity of this exceptional woman.
While the story tracks through 40 years of Suu Kyi's life, it tends to skim over critical historical/political elements of Burma's turmoil while concentrating on Aung San Suu Kyi's personal and family story - particularly the sacrifice she endured in being kept under house arrest and separated from her loved ones for many years.
The film begins in 1947 with the murder of Suu Kyi's father Aung San, Burma's democracy leader, together with members of his political party. Following the military junta's takeover in 1962 the story picks up in the late 80s with Suu Kyi living comfortably in Oxford with her academic husband Michael Aris (David Thewlis) and their two sons. Returning to Burma to be with her sick mother she comes face to face with the brutal oppression of the junta, and steps into the role of leading the National League for Democracy.
Critically and most poignantly, Besson's film focuses on the hardship of Suu Kyi's separation from her partner, especially through the trauma of his terminal illness when she was not able to visit him in England and then return to her homeland. The story delves into emotions of despair and hope, as it does into Suu Kyi's stoic balancing as mother and leader.
While there are strong performances from both Yeoh and Thewlis, General Ne Win (Htun Lin) and his junta cohorts are very one dimensional, but then perhaps they really are. Ultimately The Lady is an earnest and inspirational story that doesn't dig quite deep enough, but still manages to paint a moving and dramatic picture of the personal ordeals of Aung San Suu Kyi and her determination to guide Burma out of military dictatorship.
The Lady screens at Star Court Theatre in Lismore this Sunday, September 9, at 5.30pm.