Women’s struggle for equality continues. Today many young (and older) women believe that feminism is not necessary anymore. I totally disagree in that until women have full equality everywhere the fight must continue. A film like this that sheds light on the early days of the feminist movement’s fight to gain the right to vote for women and could educate while at the same time spur some young women on to much needed activism.
It is rather shocking that the suffragette movement has not really been given its due time on the big screen. Though when you think of how all films that are seen as “women’s” films have a hard time being made it really isn’t that surprising. This is, however, not your typical female film (whatever that is) in that there is plenty of struggle and violence. After sitting through this historical drama you will feel like you went through the wringer. Emotionally and physically.
Living the life of an anonymous British working class woman, Maud Watts (played by Carey Mulligan) is a woman who is thrust into the spotlight when she is recruited to be a member of the secret organization fighting in the U.K. to secure the vote for women. Living in the east end of London she is recruited into the Women’s Social and Political Union started up by Emmeline Pankhurst (played by Meryl Streep). The group meets in the chemist shop owned by Edith Ellyn (played by Helena Bonham Carter) and her sympathetic to the cause husband (played by Finbar Lynch).
Joining this group is dangerous for women as you could be arrested for it earning a criminal record and incur the shame that goes along with that. Special Forces police officer Arthur Steed (played by Brendan Gleeson) is assigned the task of rooting out the members of the organization and in effect shutting it down. Her husband, Sonny (played by Ben Whishaw), is not supportive at all of her being a suffragette and even questions her fitness as a mother.
Throughout the film we see how Maud transforms from someone rather ignorant of the issues surrounding women gaining the vote to someone who fights with every fibre of her being for political equality for women. Once again Carey Mulligan demonstrates her talent in the role that asks her to undergo a realistic change from an ignorant to a social activist. It is quite a stretch for the actress and she is up to it yet again.
The supporting cast – Gleeson, Bonham Carter, Meryl Streep (really is nothing more than a cameo), and Anne-Marie Duff – all do a good job and round out the story giving Mulligan plenty to work with or against. Composer Alexandre Desplat is one of the best working today and his delicate and note perfect touch with film scores really lends to the mood of the film. The way the film looks is also bang on. This is not your typical British period piece with loads of flouncy colourful gowns. Rather it is all rather grim with dirt everywhere and grey skies to round out the largely black and greys that make up the colours of the women’s clothes.
Though this is a film about a really important time in women’s history it all feels rather underwhelming at times. The story, directed by moves along rather predictably and several of the characters are not really fleshed out or anything more than stereotypes. Screenwriter Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady, Shame) allows things to get a little muddled