Lady, The (2011)

Director: Luc Besson
Cast: Michelle Yeoh, & David Thewlis
Plot: The story of Aung San Suu Kyi as she becomes the core of Burma's democracy movement, and her relationship with her husband, writer Michael Aris.

Genre: Biography/Drama
Awards: -
Runtime: 132min
Rating: NC16 for violence including some bloody images.


French director Luc Besson, who has had a quite remarkable career with action films such as La Femme Nikita (1990), Leon: The Professional (1994), and The Fifth Element (1997), has now directed The Lady, a biopic on Burma's celebrated pro-democracy leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi. While it seems like a cinematic mismatch of director to subject matter, something like Terrence Malick doing a raunchy comedy such as Bridesmaids (2011), The Lady is actually a decent film despite receiving a lukewarm reception by many film critics.

Starring Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh as Suu Kyi, The Lady is a straightforward recount of the events leading up to the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner's house arrest ordered by Burma's notoriously stubborn and brutal generals. Her storied life as a detained political prisoner in her own home for almost fifteen years, and her struggle to fight for change for her people, have earned her tremendous respect around the world. But few know about her relationship with her non-Burmese husband and children, and the personal sacrifices both parties have made in the larger struggle for the freedom of Burma.

The hope is that this film would allow more mainstream viewers to further understand Suu Kyi as a loving wife and mother, rather than as an inspirational political leader. Yeoh, who famously starred in the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), and Lee Ang's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), gives a stunning performance that keeps you glued to the screen. With a mix of Burmese and English, Yeoh successfully convinces us that she is Suu Kyi, with much of the actress' attention paying to the latter's graceful mannerisms and body language.

The dialogue may be flat at times, and the pacing slightly uneven, but Yeoh remains magnetic in her role. This helps viewers to get through some of the more inconsequential parts of the film. Besson can still work the camera with some flair, but while the cinematography is beautiful, it is far from commanding. Like The Iron Lady (2011), this is a picture about a great woman, with a superb female lead performance. But unlike the Margaret Thatcher film, The Lady is better thought-out, has a clearer focus, and a more poignant love story.

Besson, being a seasoned filmmaker, should know that the viewer's film experience is never over until the end of the end credits. Hence, it is with disappointment and disgust that I say that the choice of music for the end credits is beyond redemption After more than two hours of quite absorbing drama, Besson destroys the sanctity of the Burmese culture, and the sense of reverence we have towards a great icon of humanity by planting a heavy rock-metal song at the end. It's like playing a techno-rap song for the end credits of Schindler's List (1993). It's slightly exaggerated, but you'd get what I mean.

Still, I urge you to catch The Lady if you can, not because it is a cinematic masterpiece (it's not even close), but because it is an important film to catch. However, do put on your earplugs when the end credits start. Alternatively, you could make a dash for the exit door.

Verdict: The Lady is an important film to catch not because it is a masterpiece, but because it is a story that must be heard.

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