The Lady: The Aung San Suu Kyi Biopic Is Duller Than the Headlines

Now is an excellent time to release a biopic of Aung San Suu Kyi, the inspiring Burmese democracy activist and Nobel laureate who was elected to Parliament only last week—just not this one. Impersonally directed by cinéma du look pioneer Luc Besson, The Lady was written by first-timer Rebecca Frayn, whose script has all the elegance and nuance of Google Translate. The film opens with a brief prologue set in 1947, when the 2-year-old Suu Kyi hears stories about Burma’s past glory from her father, a national hero who helped bring about independence from British colonial rule only to be killed by rivals that year. Four decades later, Suu Kyi (Michelle Yeoh) is happily living in Oxford with Himalayan and Tibetan studies professor Michael Aris (David Thewlis) and their two adoring sons. Suu Kyi is called home to tend to her frail mother and cannot say no when protesters against the brutal military regime ask her to finish what her father started. Yet the narrative of the political neophyte’s extraordinary courage as one of the founders of the National League for Democracy who endured house arrest for 15 years is often secondary to that of Suu Kyi as wife and mother separated from her loved ones. “Mummy’s on hunger strike” typifies the expository dialogue, which is slightly preferable to Yeoh’s slogan-speak: “Because, Mikey, the fight goes on!”