Washed out with browns and greys but never lacking richness in theme or power, this British period drama focuses on the plight of women suffering without the right to vote in a man’s world. The storytelling is the fiercest aspect as we follow a character stepping into the world of the Suffragette movement.
Mother and wife Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) ends up caught in the midst of a riot led by passionate women desiring the rights to vote. Maud knows one of the ladies, Violet Miller (Anne-Marie Duff) from her workplace and ends up needing to speak to Parliament on behalf of the Suffragettes. Her understanding and passion for their cause only grows as she ends up being tracked by police, losing her family and realising how wrong the world can be to a whole gender.
As mentioned the look of this film is quite drab, of course it fits with the 1900’s setting and even if it looks a little boring the true passion and engaging factor of the movie comes from the plot and the true life problems it’s presenting to audiences. Even if there is a lot of brown, the production value of this historical drama is brilliant, the old look of London town, the Victorian houses and fashions are excellently on point to make you buy into this film and see its potential for costuming and production nominations in the Oscars to come.
Abi Morgan of recent BBC TV ‘River’ writing is in charge of telling the story here and blends in the drawn character of Maud with real life Pankhurst really well. I feel it benefits the story having a made up figure lead us through the acts as she represents the everyday, Maud is normal and driven and so relatable to females watching. It never feels bogged down with historical points, it puts in the movement, their fight and the big climax of the derby and fatality that I’m sure most people had heard about from history classes but in a good way it doesn’t feel preachy and Morgan’s screenplay presents this vital and still relevant issue with skill and heart.
Sarah Gavron directs the film in a way to dramatise the events leading to the women getting the all important vote they wanted. It’s well made and she understands how to tell a character based story that still feels on a grander scale considering the cause being fought for. I mean it’s not ground-breaking or artistic in terms of directing and the film does look like an awful lot of historically based events but at least it demonstrates how the world has moved on in some cases and how much it still desperately needs to keep progressing for all round equality.
The gender fight is prominent and necessary as we see the harshness of women being subjected to lesser pay, housebound mothering and beatings as they try to stand up for themselves. The almost water-boarding torture scene set in a prison cell is hard to stomach but does highlight the pains women of history went through to help present day women go to booths and choose who they want to run the country. It’s a movement and struggle that everyone should know about and the scrolling credits listing dates of other countries accepting the woman vote is both interesting and saddening as we see some extremely late years on the list.
Carey Mulligan is a bold and engaging talent, she really shows off the depth of London living Maud and her normality yet motivation for something better drives her to make the decisions she does. You root for her, sympathise with her and ultimately like her which is always a key thing for leading characters. Helena Bonham Carter is an interesting character and plays the more forceful women carrying out Pankhurst’s wishes which comes across well. Anne-Marie Duff is the second biggest character in the film and her disregard for the male run regime of the factory and life in general is sublime to watch, she also acts the more vulnerable change in her story to good heights. I can’t give too much to Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst because she appears 45 minutes in and for about 5 minutes. The speech she delivers is empowering but apart from that Streep is a big name for big name’s sake.
It’s a film that feels in safe hands and also feels very safe watching it, it doesn’t go overly brutal or dramatic to tell what would have been a very tough time. Yet the emotions of a gender are presented to enough degrees by a capable Mulligan who runs off with the movie.