Suffragette Review

Suffragette

Hey man, leave me alone.

You might expect to hear this kind of thing from a suffragette rather than David Bowie, no matter what city they’re in.

But Carey Mulligan and company have far bigger things on their minds in Suffragette, this year’s opening gala at the London film festival.

Maud Watts is a working class lass employed at an early twentieth century london laundry.

Being the olden days, Maud works longer hours than the men folk – for less money – and has to put up with being sexually harassed by her boss on a daily basis to boot.

Fortunately for Maud, she’s a smart girl and has found herself a decent man in the laundry to marry, which also tempers her bosses busy hands.

Mrs Watts is good enough at her job to have become forewoman at said laundry, and then there’s her son George who she’s devoted to.

For a woman in her time and of her class, this is as much as any girl can expect.

But a friend of Maud’s keeps telling her about these suffragette meetings she goes to, and encourages Maud to come join them.

Reluctant at first, Maud soon finds herself opening the door to one of these meetings in support of her friend, but this quickly opens Maud up to the idea of a different world.

As one of those male overlord types, it’s tricky for me to have a guilt free opinion on Suffragette.

It’s a well made film, with a starry cast including Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson and an all too brief cameo from Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of this country’s Suffragette movement.

Confusingly, Abi Morgan’s script weaves historical figures such as Ms Pankhurst with those of fictional creations like Mulligan’s character of Maud Watts, who it turns out is a composite of many real working class girl’s life stories.

It’s smart to create a vessel that a variety of real experiences can be channeled through, but it’s also convenient and makes you wonder how many of Mulligan’s scenes were genuine or created through artistic licence.

Which, of course, misses the point. Suffragette is a story about rebellion, standing up for what you believe in and claiming what should be yours by right.

It’s quite incredible to realise how different our world was even just 100 years ago, when women didn’t have the vote and a married woman had no rights as she was legally the property of her husband.

Suffragette shines a hollywood light on a great and just cause that shouldn’t be forgotten, especially as there are many countries in the world where women still don’t have the right to vote.

It’s just Suffragette the film isn’t as great as the movement it’s about.

Jonathan Campbell

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October 2015
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