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In 1968, the Ford auto factory in Dagenham was one of the largest single private employers in the United Kingdom. In addition to the thousands of male employees, there are also 187 underpaid women machinists who primarily assemble the car seat upholstery in poor working conditions. Dissatisfied, the women, represented by the shop steward and Rita O'Grady, work with union rep Albert Passingham for a better deal. However, Rita learns that there is a larger issue in this dispute considering that women are paid an appalling fraction of the men's wages for the same work across the board on the sole basis of their sex. Refusing to tolerate this inequality any longer, O'Grady leads a strike by her fellow machinists for equal pay for equal work. What follows would test the patience of all involved in a grinding labour and political struggle that ultimately would advance the cause of women's rights around the world. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
During the television premiere on 9th March 2013, the BBC experimented with the first ever Twitter-based director's commentary, whereby Nigel Cole and composer David Arnold live-tweeted along with the film. See more »
In the shot of the housing blocks, a satellite dish is visible on the roof of one. See more »
Captions in the closing credits: "Two years later in May 1970 the Equal Pay Act became law. Similar legislation quickly followed in most industrial countries across the world. Ford Motor Company Limited went on to effect changes in its employment practices and is now used as an example of a good practice employer." See more »
Greetings again from the darkness. The first thing that strikes you about this movie is that it looks and feels like ancient history. In fact, it is based on the real life happenings in 1968 - only about 40 years ago. Sally Hawkins (so wonderful in Happy-Go-Lucky) portrays Rita O'Grady, the Ford sewing machinist who reluctantly takes on the leadership role in the battle for equal pay for women.
Director Nigel Cole tells this story minus the heavy-handedness of the times. In fact, it's a very entertaining tale of right vs wrong - because "that's how we have always done it". He uses actual archival footage of Ford plants, cars and workers, as well as general footage of England circa 1968. These cuts give the film a feel for the times and prevent any over-analysis of wardrobe and sets in the movie. Mr. Cole clearly has an understanding of women based on this film and his previous work in "Calendar Girls".
The cross-fire between the unions, Ford, the workers and the government really bang home the notion of just how ridiculous this entire argument was (and is). Rita O'Grady was so effective because she cut through the muck and made it what it really is ... a simple case of right vs. wrong. Rights vs. privilege. This was never more apparent than in her meeting with Secretary of State Barbara Castle (Miranda Richardson). Madam Secretary is attempting to negotiate a settlement that will keep Ford happy, but quickly realizes ... with help from O'Grady ... that there is really only one correct course of action.
Supporting work is excellent from Bob Hoskins, Ms. Richardson, Daniel Mayes (as O'Grady's husband), Rupert Graves and Rosamund Pike (husband and wife on different teams) and the rest of the cast of women, as well as the Ford executives and Union leaders. The film mostly rests on the shoulders of Sally Hawkins, who breezes through with a natural energy that just makes you want to pull for her. She was terrific in Happy-Go-Lucky, and even better here.
The film stops short of detailing the massive battle that escalated the following year between Secretary Castle and the Labor Unions. Most attribute these fights to the downfall of the Labour Party in 1970. However, Ms. Castle's contributions are very clear in these all important topics and led directly to England's Equal Pay laws of 1970, which in turn paved the way for most other countries to follow.
This is a very uplifting film and shows the bravery and determination required of those who change the course of history. Whenever you hear talk regarding the lack of strong female movie roles, this film is exhibit number one that fact can be even stronger than fiction!
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