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Suffragette - Film Review

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by John Andrew (subscribe)
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Published December 19th 2015
Votes for Women

Emily Davison, the suffragette who died in 1913 while confronting the King's horse in the Derby had earned a first class honours degree from Oxford, but this was never conferred, because Oxford did not grant degrees to women. Many, if not most, of the original suffragettes were middle and upper class.

By focusing mostly on working class women, this film gives a searing picture of the hardships endured at the turn of the twentieth century by women and men in their insecure and dangerous work.

Screenwriter Abi Morgan brings to life the implications of loosely regulated factories, exploitative employers, and laws which gave men all of the power in a marriage.

Carey Mulligan plays the part of Maud, who works alongside her husband (Ben Whishaw) becoming involved in the suffragette movement led by Emmeline Pankhurst (played by Meryl Streep).
When Maud feels betrayed by Lloyd George, she joins in civil disobedience, alongside a pharmacist's wife (Helena Bonham-Carter) and coming to the attention of a tenacious Irish policeman (Brendan Gleeson).

Maud's role soon leads to conflict in her work and in her marriage, and one of the strengths of the film is that it does not demonise her husband, who is portrayed as decent, but fearful and unimaginative.

This is a powerful film, well served by its actors and its mixture of fictional and actual characters, modern and actual film footage gives a gritty sense of reality to a struggle which has received surprisingly little cinema footage.

Nor, with the current unresolved tensions in gender, racial and employment equity, have we any grounds for complacency.
As the credits roll, we are reminded that the struggle for gender equality in voting has only recently been resolved in Europe, and has yet to be resolved elsewhere.

The nature of our blinkers may have changed, but we still live in a blinkered society, and this film is a salutary reminder of how decent people can be a part of an indecent society, and of how those who oppose injustice may be crushed in the struggle for change.
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Why? A challenging movie
Where: In cinemas now
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