Given the importance of the suffragette movement and its historic impact on British women’s voting rights, it’s curious that no
feature film was ever made on the subject. This has now been rectified triumphantly; the outstanding Suffragette traces the growth
(and setbacks) of the women’s movement in Britain, through the eyes of one modest, working-class woman.
The excellent Carey Mulligan is Maud, an East End wife and mother of a young son. She toils in a grim laundry for meagre wages, insulted and ill-treated by male managers. Emboldened by a fiery friend (Anne-Marie Duff) she joins the suffragettes and, to her astonishment, finds herself addressing Parliament on women’s rights.
The making of history
All this comes at a cost. Maud is victimised at work, and her decent but uncomprehending husband (Ben Whishaw) grows gradually alienated by her fierce opposition to an unjust law.
Still, history was being made and it’s re-created dramatically here – women rioting in the streets, and a brilliant, lavish staging of the fateful Epsom Derby when a suffragette threw herself beneath the king’s horse.
Meryl Streep has a minor role as the quasi-regal Emmeline Pankhurst, but the film is truly more about ordinary women like Maud. The story of their heroic struggle is beautifully shot; this is a stirring tribute.
This review was first published in the October issue of Saga Magazine. Subscribe to the print edition or download the digital edition for this and more great articles delivered direct to you every month.
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