This story is one that people should know, and most probably do but it is surprisingly not one that has been told repeatedly so this year was its chance to break back into the conversation. In the early 20th century in Great Britain women’s rights were extremely limited, though there are many aspects of that you could focus on, the one in which was predominant was the right to vote; to actually have their say in who leads the nation and how it should be led (though that’s more in a very limited sense even, none of us get to choose what our leaders and political parties will decide, we just have to live with it). Most people might be familiar with Emmeline Pankhurst as the leader of the Suffragette movement but behind her were the woman of the public, mothers and wives who joined the fight despite what it may cost them, and this is the story of a mere handful of those women, with Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne-Marie Duff taking the lead.
First of all the combination of those three leading ladies is fantastic, all of such a high quality of acting and despite success can still convincingly play believable normal (though highly inspirational) women. Starting with Mulligan whose fame can be more considered recent than some of the others, around 5 years of building a strong career but here’s a role she can really get her teeth into, a character with some real meat to it (with the possible exception of her last role in Far From The Madding Crowd). Playing Maud Watts, a laundry worker/wife/mother of 1 compelled by what’s going on around her to join the suffragette movement, and risking everything to do so. Mulligan does a great job, you will feel for this character and everything she goes through and I cannot complain about her performance. I could mention her cockney accent, because for me accents are always a difficult thing to get right but it’s pass able. Duff who realistically spends more of her time on the stage than behind the camera, but to our disadvantage, she’s a wonderful actress who definitely does not get as much appreciation as she deserves and was perfect for this film and role. Carter lastly, it is actually quite strange to see her playing a character who is not in fact completely mad or unhinged, to just be a woman who believes in a cause and fights for it, not calm in general but compared to her other roles can be considered that way, it’s a pleasant surprise which after her 30 plus years of acting being able to still surprise audiences is impressive.
I could talk about Meryl Streep’s involvement but it is short-lived so not really necessary. The point really is that this is an eye-opening story, telling the state of the world not just as it was but how it still is in some parts. These women fought tooth and nail for what they believed in and in a time of some pretty serious police brutality, although I’m sure at the time it was just procedure as normal, they showed how strong they could be. It’s an inspirational story and one that here is told very well. Showing not only their struggles as a whole movement but the struggles of their daily life is compelling, and I’m sure for the younger audiences completely alien as to how life was for women in the past. This is a story that needs to be told and known, and this film is at least aiming the conversation towards things that still need to change today.
Overall the film isn’t for everyone, that’s clear right off the bat but it has huge emotion and inspiration while not being high thrills and big laughs, it gets right to the heart of things and attempts to show you a part of our history through the eyes of the women right in the middle of the fight. It may sound like pro-feminist propaganda to some, but really it’s a moving film about some incredible people and worth a watch.