04/12/2012 07:27 am ET Updated Jun 12, 2012

Movie Review: The Lady

Winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, Aung San Suu Kyi is as close to a modern version of Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. as you're likely to find. The fact that she's still alive -- and fighting for democracy in her homeland of Burma -- is nothing short of miraculous.

That's the impression you come away with from Luc Besson's The Lady, a biopic of the woman known as the Steel Orchid. Thanks to a marvelously full-bodied performance by Michelle Yeoh and a complementary one by David Thewlis, The Lady overcomes its own obstacles -- principally ones of pacing -- to present a moving portrait of courage, resilience and conviction.

The daughter of a former Burmese leader, Aung San, who was assassinated in 1947, Aung San Suu Kyi is first presented as a housewife and scholar in London, the wife of an academic, Michael Aris (Thewlis), whose specialty is Tibetan culture. Her country is run by a military junta, seeming madmen who live by superstition and fortune-tellers.

When she gets a call in 1988 that her mother is dying, Suu Kyi returns to Rangoon to care for her -- and immediately catches the attention of the rulers. Suspicious and fearful of her motives (as the daughter of a martyr), they follow her every movement.

Suu Kyi is shocked by the violent army response to student protests: shooting point-blank into unarmed crowds. She is quickly drafted by the nascent democracy movement -- and becomes a rallying point when the generals seem to give in to people's will and announce open elections.

Thus begins more than two decades of struggle, in which the harsh regime cracks down, not just on the democracy movement but on Suu Kyi herself.

This review continues on my website.