Plot: “The foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State.” (imdb.com)
Director: Sarah Gavron
Stars: Carey Mulligan, Anne-Marie Duff, Helena Bonham-Carter, Ben Whishaw, Meryl Streep, Brendan Gleeson
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
Suffragette is a captivating film about British women’s suffrage movement. The film takes place in 1912 England. Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) is a wife, a mother and a hard-working laundry worker. Although she never complains, it is clear that she and her fellow co-workers are being mistreated, especially by their employer who keeps leering at and groping them. Even though she is reluctant at first, Maud is drawn to a group of suffragettes by her feisty activist friend Violet Miller (Anne-Marie Duff). However, as the film goes on, she realizes the importance of this cause and becomes passionate about it. Along with a group of women, including the independent, no-nonsense pharmacist Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter) and Emily Wilding Davison (Natalie Press) who sacrificed her own life, they fight for women’s rights. We witness Maud’s personal sacrifice and heartbreak when her husband Sonny (Ben Whishaw) throws her out of their house and doesn’t even allow her to see her own son. He soon realizes that he is unable to raise him by himself and gives him up for adoption. The famous suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep) also appears briefly in the film in order to empower those women and tell them not to underestimate their power to define their own destinies.
Maud’s character development is obvious; she goes from a bystander who doesn’t want to rock the boat to a fierce activist who fights for women’s rights. The film doesn’t focus on the privileged, educated women but rather on the ordinary, working women who had to work long hours and then return home and continue their duties as wives and mothers.
Those women were being beaten by the police, thrown in jail, tortured and even died in order to win the right to vote. Was violence and vandalism the best way to fight for their cause? I honestly don’t know. But here’s what Maud had to say when she was being interrogated by a police inspector: “We break windows, we burn things. Cause war is the only language men listen to! Cause you’ve beaten us and betrayed us and there’s nothing else left!”
Solely for the purposes of narrative convenience, part of the film is fictional, including the lead character. Are there historical inaccuracies? Yes. Have some things been left out? Also yes. No film is perfect. However, it is a powerful women-driven drama, definitely worth watching. Written and directed by two women, Abi Morgan and Sarah Gavron respectively, the film includes fierce and passionate performances by the female cast. Good job, ladies!