Dan's Review: "Suffragette" no match for history
Anne-Marie Duff and Carey Mulligan in Suffragette - © 2015 - Focus Features
Suffragette (Focus Features)
Rated PG-13 for some intense violence, thematic elements, brief strong language and partial nudity.
Starring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Meryl Streep, Natalie Press, Anne-Marie Duff, Romola Garai, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw, Samuel West, Adrian Schiller.
Written by Abi Morgan.
Directed by Sarah Gavron.
Voting is a special right, and one that too many take for granted. It wasn’t all that long ago when women couldn’t vote, and many have perhaps forgotten what it took to get the patriarchy of the day to loosen their grip on the polls. Suffragette is movie that attempts to explore the struggle by fictionalizing characters during the suffrage movement in England in the early 1900s.
Carey Mulligan stars as the fictional Maud, a working mother who earns a small wage in a London laundry house. Her husband Sonny also works there, but the young parents barely makes enough money to pay the rent for their apartment in the slums. One of Maud’s co-workers is (fictional) Violet (Anne Marie Duff), a suffrage activist who recruits her friend into the cause. Maud eventually meets many other (fictional) activists, including Edith (Helena Bonham Carter) and Alice (Romola Garai). As the activists continue to fight for equality, a (fictional) police investigator named Steed (Brendan Gleeson) is called in to run surveillance on them. Maud and others are arrested and eventually face jail time, which leads her husband to kick her out of the apartment and take her son away from her. Maud is inspired by Mrs. Pankhurst (Meryl Streep), a very real historic figure who led the suffrage movement.
As the struggle continues, another real historic figure resorts to desperate measures to get the attention of King George.
Suffragette is a fine film with a lot to day about the women who fought for the right to vote, and it’s a good ting to draw attention to those who sacrificed so much. An examination of current voter turnout suggests that there are plenty of people who are either unaware or apathetic that such women fought so hard for the privilege participate in their own governance. That said, I’m not sure fictionalizing characters was the best method to make the point, since there were so many real women (and men) whose stories would be just as compelling.
It’s also disappointing to see Streep for only a few minutes in the film, giving the impression that the marketing for Suffragette was an exercise in bait-and-switch. Pankhurst’s story might also be worth more than a few iconic quotes.
Even so, Suffragette accomplishes its goal of helping the contemporary world be a little more aware of how far we've come as a society in a short amount of time.