Celebrating nearly a century of women’s right to vote, Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette is an important and inspirational film on democracy in action.
The Womenby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Suffragette is scripted and shot as urgently if it’s a contemporary story. And that’s the point – the struggle for equality is still relevant worldwide. Set in 1912 when women’s fight for the right to vote became violent, it centres on the fictional character of working-class Maud (Carey Mulligan, subtle and poignant, dominating the film), who gets swept up into the women’s suffrage movement by co-worker Violet (strident and abused Anne-Marie Duff). Fired up by a rebel-rousing speech by Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep in a Thatcherish cameo), Maud gets drawn in so deeply that in the end she loses everything. Director Sarah Gavron and writer Abi Morgan don’t spare us the overriding sexist male hostility and ridicule, the excessive police brutality nor the horror of force feeding, even if it sometimes feels like an unconnected series of incidents. Mulligan’s Everywoman is a reminder that women’s suffrage wasn’t just a middle class movement, and she has to bear the burden of many issues compressed into one person – as if the true stories were not enough in themselves. However, the film still impresses as inspirational, important and must-see – particularly moving when the funeral of the movement’s martyr, Emily Davidson, segues into archive footage of crowds of white-garbed suffragette mourners. Shots which finally gave them the publicity they sought.
Suffragette is now showing at the London Film Festival