The Lady
Directed by Luc Besson
Left Bank Pictures, 2011
The Lady Directed by Luc Besson Left Bank Pictures, 2011

A lady’s life

Review of an apolitical biopic on Aung San Suu Kyi.

It all starts with a sizzle of excitement. A crowd draws near, and at its centre stands an elegant, frail woman. By the time she is on stage, however, she has become a powerful speaker, deftly deflecting questions, holding the expectant audience rapt. A thousand clichés are created, and a modern-day fairytale is born from the bosom of Hollywood. The result is director Luc Besson's The Lady.

That the film is, strictly, neither biopic nor political says a lot about the appeal of Aung San Suu Kyi, the film's protagonist. The Lady is primarily a tale of personal sacrifice – a quintessential ingredient in the creation of many a 'saint', from Buddha to Saint Francis of Assisi to Mohandas K Gandhi. The film stars the Malaysian actress (and former Bond girl) Michelle Yeoh, who spent time with Suu Kyi in the immediate aftermath of her release from house arrest in November 2010. At certain moments, Yeoh's preparation shines through, as she brings a few of Suu Kyi's mannerisms to the screen; but in truth, Yeoh never meets the challenge of depicting the Nobel laureate's humanity. Portraying the journey from housewife to living messiah is, perhaps, too great a task.

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