A drama that tracks the story of the foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State. These women were not primarily from the genteel educated classes, they were working women who had seen peaceful protest achieve nothing. Radicalized and turning to violence as the only route to change, they were willing to lose everything in their fight for equality - their jobs, their homes, their children and their lives. Maud was one such foot soldier. The story of her fight for dignity is as gripping and visceral as any thriller, it is also heart-breaking and inspirational.Written by
Carey Mulligan didn't wash her hair for weeks during the shoot and wore very little make up to give her character a real feel. See more »
The first time that Brendan Gleeson interviews Carey Mulligan, Brendan's hands are resting on the table between them. You can see the watch on his left wrist, visible under his cuff. Wrist watches did not become popular for men until during/after the Great War (1914-1918). See more »
Re-Telling of a Seminal Moment in British Women's History
Years ago the BBC did a series SHOULDER TO SHOULDER (1974) that told the story of the origins and development of the Women's Movement in Britain, with special attention paid to the WSPU (Women's Social and Political Union).
Sarah Gavron's film revisits the same territory as it tells the story of the gradual awakening of Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) as she sets her marriage and family aside in favor of the Women's Movement. The crux of the action centers around the death of Emily Wilding Davison (Natalie Press) at the 1913 Derby, as she stepped out in front of the horses finishing the race and was crushed to death.
In view of the film's earnestness of purpose, it seems a shame to criticize it. However there are certain jarring elements that do stand out. Abi Morgan's screenplay seems uncertain whether to focus on the political or the familial elements. Maud's husband Sonny (Ben Whishaw) is just too placid a personality to become truly angry about his wife's decision to embrace the Suffagette cause, and the emotional scene where he decides to let his son George (Adam Michael Dodd) to for adoption is straight out of KRAMER VS. KRAMER.
Director Gavron seems too concerned with showing tight close-ups of Mulligan's face as she struggles her way through a dead-end job at the local laundry. Hence we get little sense of the slave-like existence pursued by most working-class women at that time. Meryl Streep, in the cameo of role of Emmeline Pankhurst, simply reprises her Margaret Thatcher turn in THE IRON LADY (2011).
On the other hand, the film does have its moments, especially when Maud goes to the Houses of Parliament and ends up talking about her life in front of David Lloyd George (Adrian Schiller). We get the sense of how much courage it takes to speak up in front of a group of unsympathetic middle-aged men. Helena Bonham Carter is quite surprisingly good as Edith Ellyn, especially in a sequence where she and her co- conspirators plan to blow up a private property constructed for Lloyd George's personal pleasure. The way Edith grinds up the gunpowder reveals her inherent anger at the ways in which women are treated.
The ending is also powerful, as Gavron fades out from the film into faded black-and-white films of Emily Davison's actual funeral taken in 1913. Through this technique we are made aware of the film's importance to an understanding of British social history.
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