London, 1950 – Vera Drake lives in a small flat with her London, 1950 – Vera Drake lives in a small flat with husband Stan, and their grown-up son and daughter, Sid and Ethel. The family is not rich, but their combined incomes make for a reasonable life. Vera is a cleaner, Stan a mechanic in his brother Frank’s garage, and Ethel works in a light-bulb factory. Sid is an apprentice tailor. The Drakes have something money can’t buy: they are a genuinely happy family.
Vera is always helping people. She regularly visits one sick neighbor, and invites another, Reg, to supper because she thinks he isn’t eating properly.
Vera cleans the houses of the “well-to-do.” In one of these, we encounter Susan, the daughter of the family.
Vera visits a house that is much shabbier than those of her employers. A distressed young woman is waiting. Vera offers her kind words of reassurance as she removes various items from her bag, and proceeds to perform an abortion.
This is Vera’s secret life that she has never discussed with her family. They are totally unaware of her activities, which were of course illegal in England until the late 1960’s.