Suffragette

**1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Upcoming Film4 release Suffragette
"All message and no massage"

This is the stuff of BBC TV series, except it's an hour and a half long, not six episodes. Would this have been better? The longer version?

One of its difficulties is familiarity. Women in the work place (factory) was covered by Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables. Hunger strikes and forced feeding went even further in Steve McQueen's Bobby Sands movie. The dark grey lives of the underprivileged have been recreated over and over again in fashionable costume dramas, not always at centre stage but as a backdrop to Dickens, murder mysteries and cross class romances.

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Maud (Carey Mulligan in a role tailor made for Maxine Peake) is what they call a working mother - she works in a laundry where women are abused by male bosses and she's a mother to George. Out there in the smarter world of politics and protest, posh ladies, such as Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep in a blink-&-miss cameo) and Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter lending her face to the crowd), are making a nuisance of themselves in the Votes For Women movement.

"We don't want to be law breakers, we want to be law makers," Mrs P tells her adoring fans. "I would rather be a rebel than a slave."

Sound bit, or what?

Meanwhile Maud is sacked after protecting a young girl from their foreman, a sexual predator, and is drawn into the feminist fold. As a result, she loses everything - her job, her son ("Dad says you're not well in the head"), her husband ("You are my wife. Act like a wife!"), her home and not quite her mind.

The film is all message and no massage. Misogyny is rife. The social structure favours male dominance over female interference. Maud's story may be a composite of others but it lacks closure, as does the film.

The most dramatic moment is when Emily Wilding Davison, a fleeting figure up until then, is killed by King George's horse during the Epsom Derby in 1913. You know it's going to happen because you have read the history, although you may have forgotten that women did not get the vote in England for another 15 years.

Reviewed on: 28 Sep 2015
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Suffragette packshot
Story of the early feminist movement.
Amazon link

Festivals:

London 2015

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