There’s a new trailer out for Luc Besson’s latest film, The Lady, where Michelle Yeoh stars as political rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi. Judging from the first trailer, I assumed the film would be about her struggles in establishing democracy in Burma and the resulting house arrest. And why wouldn’t I? The 50 second teaser reveals a montage of militants putting up barbed wire and Yeoh climbing a stage to face cheering crowds amidst dramatic music.
This new trailer, though, shows otherwise.
Here we have the beautiful Michelle Yeoh (who doesn’t appear to say much except walk in slow motion or gaze out the window) portraying a political leader seeking to finish her late father’s dreams for democracy. Her imprisonment leads her to separate from her husband and children and…wait, is that it? The description on ComingSoon.net (which I assume they got from some press release or re-appropriated from IMDB) goes even deeper–but not politically:
“The Lady” is an epic love story about how an extraordinary couple and family sacrifice their happiness at great human cost for a higher cause. This is the story of Aung San Suu Kyi and her husband, Michael Aris. 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 background of political turmoil which continues today. “The Lady” also is the story of the peaceful quest of the woman who is at the core of Burma’s democracy movement.
Hold up. Here we have a biopic about on of South Asia’s biggest political activists, celebrated globally for her work and a woman, no less. She even won a Nobel Peace prize. And here we also have the director who gave us The Fifth Element, Leon: The Professional and La Femme Nikita. So why are they focusing on how Aung San Suu Kyi’s love for Michael Aris “endures until the very end” (which I’m assuming is his–spoiler alert–his death) despite the odds? (And I’m sure the anti-AW/WM trolls are going to have a field day with that topic.) Dude, I want to see her kick some ass. I want to be inspired by her devotion and her strength. I want to see her experiences of going to school at Oxford, what shaped her political beliefs, and why she matters.
IMDB’s description puts the story a little more bluntly:
The story of pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi and the academic and writer Michael Aris; a true story of love set against political turmoil.
So The Lady is clearly a love story. Of course, I’m not asking Hollywood to rewrite history. All of this stuff happened to Aung San Suu Kyi. The pain of separation that she must have felt is valid. Being torn away from your family to stand up for a bigger cause must be heartbreaking. But is it necessary to involve romance when it comes to a female protagonist? Do we really have to hear about the guy who stood by her?
I can’t help but compare this description to the other “lady” movie: The Iron Lady, which stars Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, the former (and only female) prime minister of the UK:
One of the 20th century’s most famous and influential women, Thatcher came from nowhere to smash through barriers of gender and class to be heard in a male dominated world.
Yeah, I don’t see anything about enduring love here. Thatcher smashed barriers! She influenced the 20th century! She was heard in a male dominated world! What doe ASSK do in The Lady? Judging from these descriptions, she loved Michael Aris despite the political strife. While their relationship may be remarkable, this pairing of a strong women with a male counterpart isn’t new. We can’t have Cleopatra without Mark Antony, Hillary Rodham Clinton without thinking of what Bill’s been up to (and then I start thinking about Monica Lewinsky…), and even Queen Elizabeth I’s lack of a spouse is as part of her identity as is her defeat of the Spanish Armada. So can we not have Aung San Suu Kyi without Michael Aris?
Obviously, I should wait to see The Lady before making an official judgement but with the 35% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, my love for Michelle Yeoh and Luc Besson might have to endure a little longer.
PS. But yes, I am still geeking out over Remus Lupin being in this movie.