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The Lady (2 stars)

Aung San Suu Kyi biopic does nothing to alleviate Luc Besson's downward course

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The Lady

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Luc Besson is best known for his action adventures such as The Fifth Element, The Big Blue and Leon. The French director’s career has been in decline in recent years and this jump into serious drama has done nothing to alleviate this downward course. It takes some doing to rob the biopic of Nobel prize-winning pro-democracy Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi of drama and tension. But, with his skewed view of history and ropey storytelling, Besson manages it.

The Lady starts with an idyllic fairytale vision of Burma (golden vistas, animals, untouched forests) before the country is changed forever by the military coup in 1947. Yet Besson saves his biggest follies for the decade between 1988 and 1998 as he recounts how the arrest of Kyi (Michelle Yeoh) affects her relationship with her Oxford-based husband Michael Aris (David Thewlis). Aris emerges as a two-dimensional character – so stoic and understanding that, despite the traumas he faces, there is little audience empathy with his own plight. All this comes at the expense of sufficient detail on Kyi’s impact on Burmese and international politics. A wasted opportunity.

The Lady International Trailer

The Lady

  • 2 stars
  • 2011
  • France/UK
  • 132 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Luc Besson
  • Cast: Michelle Yeoh David Thewlis, Jonathan Woodhouse
  • UK release: 30 December 2011

It takes some doing to rob the biopic of Nobel prize-winning Burmese pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi of drama and tension, but that's exactly what Besson manages here. The story of her romance with Oxford academic Michael Aris is mishandled too, making this an entirely wasted opportunity.

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