Synopsis: THE LADY is the extraordinary story of Aung San Suu Kyi and her husband, Michael Aris. It is also the epic story of the peaceful quest of the woman who is at the core of Burmaâs democracy movement. Despite distance, long separations, and a dangerously hostile regime, their love endures until the very end. A story of devotion and human understanding set against a backdrop of political turmoil that continues today.
Release Date: December 2, 2011 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, Biography
Over the course of three years Screenwriter Rebecca Frayn wrote the script for The Lady, based on the true story of Aung San Suu Kyi (Michelle Yeoh). Aung San is alive today, and her story witnessed a dramatic turn during the filming of the movie, she was finally set-free of house arrest after fifteen years in her home country of Burma. Such a development obviously changed the course of the film, what it did not do was make her true-story written for the screen full of the depth needed or deserved by a woman who self-sacrificed so much for her beloved country.
Aung San is the daughter of General Aung San who sought democracy for the country of Burma in the 1940s. He was assassinated when Aung San was only three-years-old, but his legacy lived on with the people of Burma who continued to fight for political freedom from the military junta led by General Ne Win (Htun Lin). Aung San had not spent her entire life in Burma, as she married an Englishman, Michael Aris (David Thewlis), and lived with him in England. Together Michael and Aung San had two sons, Kim (Jonathan Raggett) and Alex (Jonathan Woodhouse). The familial ties of Aung San are imperative to the story in The Lady for the sacrifices she made on behalf of herself, and with the blessing of her husband and sons, are what make her story truly amazing.
Aung San received a call from Burma that her mother was ill and she must come home as she did not have much time to live. Burma in the 1980s was a country filled with violence on the streets, and protesting against the regime at every turn. For Aung San it was a dangerous place given her father’s past role thirty years ago. Aung San was seen as a threat by the Burmese government, and her visit under strict observation at all times. The film presents Aung San as a woman open to revolutionary ideas immediately upon her arrival in Burma. With her mother sick in bed upstairs she welcomes professors, liberals, and the like into her home to organize a stance for democracy as her father did before. What is not explained is just why or how the people assume Aung San is privy to being a part of the revolution. She is very much a foreigner and her life exists in another country. It is clear she loves her home country and wants to see it freed from the oppression and violence it experiences but her political aspirations are not something the script allows the viewer to understand through the character. The Lady is quick to judge Aung San’s wants and desires, forgetting to delve into the turmoil she must have encountered by taking on the role of revolutionary.
It is the turmoil that will come to be the backbone of The Lady. Aung San goes on to cause political unrest in Burma with her ‘National League For Democracy’ and is even elected Prime Minister–a post she never takes as General Ne Win does not relinquish his power but instead puts Aung San under house arrest and imprison’s everyone else in the party. Her decision to take such an obstinate stance against the government of Burma takes her away from her husband and son’s, sometimes for years at a time. When she is placed under house arrest she cannot leave the country or she will never be able to return. Her husband and children are in England, unable to gain Visa’s to visit her–at any time she could leave, go home to them, and live her life. Instead Aung San stays in Burma under arrest, and does not see her children for ten years or her husband before his death from cancer. Aung San had the support of her family, and the film shows this, but it never dives deep enough into the psyche of the woman to really understand how she could give up everything, or why she would.
The Lady is the story of a remarkable woman who to this day is doing amazing things for Burma. It neglects to appreciate the actual woman by padding the story with events and known occurrences. The Lady desperately needs more emotion, more inner-turmoil, and greater substance with all of the characters to relinquish it from substandard bio-pic. For such an incredible woman one expects something greater for her story; Director Luc Besson and Screenwriter Rebecca Frayn merely gloss over the core dynamics, replacing depth with incidentals.
The Lady is not an action film, but that is not to say it is without action sequences. Set within a turbulent time in Burma where violence in the streets is commonplace and gunfire a sound heard night and day, Luc Besson’s (The Fifth Element, Leon: The Professional) former directing skills of action-laden films becomes evident. Besson has a knack for framing his action. When he wants a character to see something, and the viewer to see the action from their POV, it is never obscured or distanced. In The Lady this is first seen when Aung San visits the hospital of her mother only to be thrown into a bloody massacre happening on the street outside. Aung San stands in the hospital entryway as men, women, and children pour in with limbs bleeding or missing, their bodies ravaged by bullets and beaten. One of the military stands before a doctor, he says “I wear the red scarf, I have the right to kill you.” With that statement, as he points the gun at the doctor point-blank, and fires, your heart races. You never expect to see the violence so clearly, so blatantly obvious in a movie titled The Lady; but this is a Luc Besson movie, and Luc Besson does not sugar coat violence, or adhere from showing copious amounts of blood and torturous acts.
In a brutal place such as Burma, Luc Besson uses the gentile, pacifist nature of Aung San against the brutal, unrelenting force of the military. The dichotomy of the two creates a film that is honest, and full of non-descript action. Aung San’s story could not have been told sans the bloodshed and turbulence being encountered by the Burmese people. Luc Besson uses his action background to make these scenes stand out, grab the attention of the viewer, and never create a doubt as to the detestable events that occurred. The Lady may be a dramatic biography but it is not without the action of a narrative feature someone like Luc Besson would write, and has in the past.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Luc BessonVirginie SillaJean Todt
- Producer(s): Rebecca Frayn
- Screenwriter(s): Michelle Yeoh (Aung San Suu Kyi)David Thewlis (Michael Aris)Jonathan Raggett (Kim Aris)
- Story: Jonathan Woodhouse (Alexander Aris)
- Cast: Susan Wooldridge (Lucinda Philips)Benedict Wong (Karma Phuntsho) Julien ReyThierry ArbogastHugues Tissandier
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: FranceUK