The scene is set in London in the early 1900's. We are taken into scenes of a laundry work house service where women work from an early age (as young as seven) for little pay under their harsh masters. The film is not only a treatise on women's rights but a look into the class system and the morals of the times.
This was the first film to be granted the right to film in the House of Commons. Glorious heritage buildings take centre stage for a brief time, before the impact of the women's testimony takes hold. Maud (Carey Mulligan) as the central character is a reluctant activist who later becomes so passionate that the cause becomes her all in all.
Close ups of the laundry machines contrast with the unadorned women's faces, which are bruised, pale and desperate. There is excellent art production, cinematography and costumes throughout. The Brits really know how to recreate historical events. The film succeeds in recreating the era, the times and the sense of what traumas the suffragettes faced; how much they sacrificed, how often they were let down, and the desperate measures that were taken, none more so than the climatic scenes.
The film stars Carey Mulligan playing the lead role of a 24-year-old laundress. Helena Bonham Carter plays a fellow suffragette. Meryl Streep appears only briefly as the real life character of Emmeline Pankhurst, a British political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement.
This is indeed a worthy film, but it is a story that many do not know. The film's final credits give an account of which countries granted the right for women to vote. This was a long battle for many and some like Saudi Arabia are still waiting. The film has encouraged me to search more on this time, when women were denied the right to vote and had very little independence.