If you look beyond Jason 'The Stath' Statham's Transporter, Luc Besson has a history of more unconventional movie heroes. There's been his animated Arthur and Jean Reno's compromised Léon, Milla Jovovich's Joan of Arc and the superfast slacker Taxi man Daniel. But none have been as heroic as real-life pro-democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi.
In what is now a rare (non-animated, English language) directorial outing, the heartbreaking tale of Suu Kyi's struggles - both personal and political - gives Besson what must be the most substantial story he's worked with for some time.
It's hard to imagine a more perfect actor for the role of Suu Kyi than Michelle Yeoh. Beyond her physical resemblance, Yeoh conveys her gentleness, power and strength. David Thewlis's double-turn as Suu's husband Michael Aris and his twin brother Anthony is equally capable and tear-inducing.
The years speed up and slow down on screen according to events, but the performances of Yeoh and Thewlis, combined with Suu Kyi's inspiring story and ongoing story, hold The Lady together as the film passes through time. While the film has its failings, its central, divided pair are not among them.
While in Burma, she is - inevitably - drawn into her country's continuing struggle against the military junta which took control in 1962. She is first placed under house arrest in 1989, and, interspersed with periods of release, was detained for a total of 15 of the last 21 years before her last release in November 2010.
Aris was allowed to visit his wife only five times between 1989 and their last meeting in 1995. The Lady's real challenge is to show us the effect of that detention on the Burmese people, on Suu Kyi and most of all her family, marooned in their Oxford diaspora. In that it most definitely succeeds.
There are heartbreaking moments around every corner. The gentleness of Yeoh's pacifist Suu Kyi is clear, but her core of sheer strength is always visible. When she refuses to leave Burma (and perhaps never be allowed to return) to visit her dying husband, you are reminded that it was the bonds of family which first drew her into her nation's struggle.
It would be easy to complain that The Lady is worthy and hand-wringing, but, given the essential truth of the facts depicted on screen, how could it not be?
As a purely cinematic piece, The Lady doesn't completely work. Its simplicity and set-pieces definitely give the feel of a made-for-TV biopic rather than a theatrical work and it feels a little slack at times, despite the span of time covered. Yet it remains essential viewing all the same.