When women rebel like men

This is my review of Suffragette [DVD] [2015].

This film adopts a somewhat unusual take on the suffragette movement by focusing on Maud, a twenty-four year old Cockney who has suffered the unhealthy fumes and gross sexual harassment from the supervisor at a laundry where she has been employed since childhood, having been taken along to work as a baby when her mother worked there before her. Married to a fellow-worker with a young son to whom she is devoted, Maud initially wishes to keep out of trouble, but is drawn inadvertently into the campaign, and radicalised by the excessive police brutality she suffers and a growing realisation of the injustice and limitations of her life. This highlights the fact that the wealthy women who led the suffragette movement, often to some extent “playing” at it because they could opt out at any time, stood to lose less than their working-class supporters who risked destitution through being thrown out of their jobs and the isolation of being rejected by family and neighbours for their “subversive” beliefs.

Well-acted with some strong character development and a good script, I was particularly struck by the interesting evolving relationship between Maud and the cynical Irishman bent on infiltrating the suffragette movement, excellently played by Carey Mulligan and Brendan Gleeson respectively. Yet despite this, together with some moving moments and impressive recreations of 1912 street scenes with horse-drawn buses, I often felt myself to be viewing the drama in dark settings through a kind of fog , which may be intentional to imitate the graininess of old film footage of demonstrations. Also many shots seem to be with a camera held too close to the characters to see clearly what is going on – as in the case of Mrs. Pankhurst’s escape from arrest.

I would have preferred a good documentary of this fascinating theme, but since every generation needs to be reminded of how recently women gained the vote which many now do not bother to exercise, and how badly they were treated “as a matter of course”, this may for many be a more effective way of making the point.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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