First Hit: Just before the final credits roll, the audience gets a strong message about just how difficult it has been for women to have a voice in the country they live.
This story takes place in Britain, but when the end of the film comes, it is a testament to every woman in every country in the world.
In the US women didn’t get to vote until 1920. In Switzerland 1971. And there are many countries that women do not have the right to vote. It is one of the primary downsides of Muslim countries and some interpretations of Islamic law – women who make half the world’s population had little say in the way the world is run. It makes me incredibly sad, filled with disappointment and to me shocking that although we can make huge forward leaps in the world technology, we have silenced so many people by not giving them a voice in how the world is run.
The Suffragette movement in Britain was an underground affair where women would meet, with the support of a few men, in clandestine ways to organize marches and protests against the English government. Leading this movement is Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep) who in a couple of scenes sets the tone for the real foot soldiers, Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter), Violet Miller (Anne-Marie Duff), and Maud Watts (Carrie Mulligan). Watts has a young boy and she’s worked at a laundry company her whole life. She tries to stay out of trouble, but as her bravery begins to grow with the injustice she sees around her, she ends up being one of the stronger voices and leaders of this group of women trying to make a change.
The cost is high. Men run the country and families and she loses her son to her husband who then sends the boy off with another family. She’s living in the street, family gone, but sees that this is the only path for her – getting the vote, and getting more say in her life and country.
The dialogue is very strong and many of the scenes/sets are perfectly attuned to the time and feeling of this darkness coming to light.
Mulligan is terrific. She is believable and carries the inner strength needed to make her choices congruent with the part through and through. This is a wonderful role for her. Duff is equally strong as a woman having to also make hard choices, especially when she becomes pregnant again. Carter is very strong as a medical practitioner, who uses her connections and supportive husband to keep the movement going. Finbar Lynch as Carter’s husband Hugh is incredibly wonderful in his very subdued background supportive role. Abi Morgan wrote a great script which evoked strength and fear in strong reflective ways. Sarah Gavron had excellent control of the script and subject. She made this come alive in an intelligent manner.
Overall: The film was very good, but when the list of countries appeared on the screen listing the years they gave women the vote, it put a very loud and strong exclamation point on the subject.