Price to pay for vote
Director: Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane) Starring: Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep, Ben Whishaw, Anne-Marie Duff, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson Verdict: How to beat the system when the system has you beaten
AT once dour yet inspiring, this arresting period drama isolates a crucial point in time for an important movement that fought hard to secure the right to vote for the women of Great Britain.
Sure, Suffragette is hardly made of the stuff that forms queues and flogs tickets in this summer of Star Wars. Nevertheless, its expert fusing of the political and the personal issues that motivated these pioneering protesters can’t be faulted.
Working from a no-nonsense, wellresearched screenplay by scripting ace Abi Morgan (Shame, The Iron Lady), filters the harsh realities of life on the front lines of this landmark battle for equality through a single fictional character.
In the year 1912, Maud (played by Carey Mulligan) is a young working wife and mother already despairing that her destiny has gone down a dead-end.
The shabby conditions of her workplace at a lowly London laundry service are worsened immeasurably by the seedy boss of the establishment, a sexual predator continually harassing his female employees in the full knowledge he will get away with it.
Maud’s husband Sonny (Ben Whishaw) is a decent man. However, his abiding philosophy when it comes to his wife’s troubles is a shrugging “that’s just the way it is”.
Not surprisingly, something has got to give for Maud, or she will have no choice but to give up. So when a new wave of activity by Suffragette women around London breaks out, Maud tentatively decides to go with the flow.
A transformative spark catches alight in Maud over time, as she experiences first-hand the extraordinary lengths the Suffragettes must go to for their collective voice to be heard.
The film really comes into its own when it rams home to the viewer the daunting risks that came with a commitment to what was very much an unpopular, outlaw cause at the time.
Jobs were on the line. Jail time was a near-certainty. Repeat offenders could lose their children, and worse.
With a delicately nuanced performance from Mulligan (continuing her fine form from the recent Far From the Madding Crowd) as its centre point, Suffragette is able to capture a lot of narrative ground in a relatively short time.
Excellent supporting contributions from the likes of Meryl Streep (used sparingly, but powerfully as famous Suffragette spearhead Emmeline Pankhurst), Helena Bonham Carter (as a radicalised woman of learning) and Anne-Marie Duff (a conflicted fellow employee of Maud) further enhance the film’s clear vision and timeless relevance.