2011 Certificate: 12


Luc Besson directs this chronicle of the "Steel Orchid" - Burmese pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi. After 15 years of house arrest and continual harassment from the authorities, Aung (Michelle Yeoh) - with the support of her Oxford academic husband Michael Aris (David Thewlis) - still calmly persists in her hope for a truly democratic country. The two leads deliver strong, sympathetic performances while Besson's ravishing visuals strike an ironic counterpoint to the bullying oppression of the ruling junta.


  • Luc Besson


  • Michelle Yeoh

  • David Thewlis

  • Jonathan Raggett

  • Jonathan Woodhouse

  • Benedict Wong


Burma's inspirational democratic campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi was sustained over years of oppression by the steadfast support of her English husband...and the sugary tones of Dave Lee Travis on the BBC World Service.

Mercifully, director Luc Besson chooses to focus on Aung San Suu Kyi's relationship with Oxford academic Michael Aris rather than the spirit-building broadcasts of the Hairy Cornflake.

Aung San Suu Kyi - the daughter of murdered Burmese nationalist Aung San - found herself appointed leader of the country's National League for Democracy when she returned to Burma to visit her dying mother.

Until then she'd been living with her husband (Thewlis)and two sons in the genteel comfort of Oxford's academic community after making England her home.

Thrust onto the sharp end of Burmese politics her immediate popularity made her a threat to a regime led by flakey army top brass guided by clairvoyants (it's a bit like David Cameron getting policy advice from Derek Acorah).

Besson's solid chronicle focusses on the wedge the military unsuccessfully tried to drive betwen Aung San Suu Kyi and her husband, a spiteful ploy which backfired as Michael unstintingly supported his wife's insistence on remaining in Burma (if she'd left...she wouldn't have been allowed back in).

We follow her as she's put under house arrest. forbidden to meet her supporters and Michael's visa is maliciously refused. Most grimly, she is unable to be with him when he succumbs to cancer and dies at home in England.

Michelle Yeoh's portrayal of the stoic, uncomplaining Aung San Suu Kyi is uncanny with the scenes set in Burma (actually shot in Thailand) stronger than those featuring Thewlis back in blighty.

There is, however, a glimmer of hope: since the film was made Aung San Suu Kyi has been released from house arrest and allowed to travel freely.