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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
The investigation of the suffragette movement was the first instance of law enforcement using photo surveillance of persons of interest. See more »
When Maud seeks out her son in the street after her husband has banished her, George spots her and runs up. She scoops him up into her arms and we see the soles of his shoes, which have modern plastic soles with the maker's embossing on them. See more »
This is your moment to come forward and speak up. And I will choose one person from this laundry to deliver their testimony at the House of Commons. These will be heard by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Lloyd George.
No one cares, love.
Some of us do, Mrs. Coleman. So shut your bleedin' cake-hole!
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Whilst most men would agree that giving women the vote was a dreadful mistake (put that stone down ladies . it's just a joke), the astonishing story behind the UK social upheaval that was the Suffragette movement is well overdue a serious cinematic treatment. And a serious treatment Sarah Gavron's new film most certainly is: you exit the cinema feeling about as wrung out as the linen in the heroine Maud's workhouse-style laundry.
Carey Mulligan plays Maud Watts, an ordinary and anonymous working woman who progressively gets sucked into the anarchic rabble-rousing of an East-end branch of the Pankhurst's Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). With operations run out of a chemist's shop by Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter) and her sympathetic husband, Maud risks a criminal record and the shame associated with that to pursue her ideals. Police pressure is applied by special forces copper Arthur Steed (Harry Potter's Brendan Gleeson) and personal pressure is put on her by her husband (played by Ben Whishaw, soon to be seen again as 'Q') and her alleged fitness to be a mother to their young son George (Adam Michael Dodd). As politicians continue to ignore the issue, the actions build to one of the most historic events of the period.
The struggle is seen very much through the limited prism of this select group of women. But where I really liked this film is in the slow awakening of Maud's character. In many ways it is like the germination of a seed that we are seeing on the screen. She starts without any interest in the movement and even mid-way through the film she is adamant that she is "not a suffragette", despite evidence to the contrary. Mulligan is, as always, completely brilliant in the role.
The supporting cast are all strong with Gleeson being particularly watchable as the lawman with a grudging respect for Maud and her cause. Meryl Streep makes a powerful cameo as Emily Pankhurst: but it is a short and sweet performance. Maud's friend Violet (Anne-Marie Duff) is also outstanding, her gaunt face delivering a haunting performance.
Whilst there are some highly emotionally charged scenes in the film, in a political sense the film has a curious lack of passion at times. A keynote speech to Lloyd George for example should have been electric - yet the Abi Morgan's script doesn't quite do the scene justice and if I was the MP I wouldn't have been impressed (which perhaps was the point).
I also had issues with some of the cinematography. Carey Mulligan has such an expressive and photogenic face that extreme close ups should work brilliantly. And yet filming it with a hand-held camera produces a constantly shifting image which was extremely distracting. Elsewhere in the art department though 1912 London is beautifully recreated, through both special effects, costume and make-up.
Alexandre Desplat delivers a touching score with a clever underlying drumbeat of change.
Suffragette is a solid historical drama, that tells an important social tale a tale that graphically illustrates how much the world has really changed, and changed for the better, in a mere hundred years. Above all, the film concludes with the astounding fact that Switzerland only gave women the vote in 1971 (and in fact with one canton holding out on local issues until 1991). Shameful!
(Please find the full graphical review at bob-the-movie-man.com and sign up to receive future reviews).
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