The Iron Lady

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - YOUR TV WEEK -

Meryl Streep’s Os­car-win­ning per­for­mance as Mar­garet Thatcher, Bri­tain’s con­tro­ver­sial former Prime Min­is­ter, is un­doubt­edly a tour de force. But how­ever ac­cu­rate her por­trayal, the film is not in­tended as a doc­u­men­tary or his­tory les­son. In­stead, it presents a fic­tion­alised and at times melo­dra­matic view of a hugely de­ter­mined, pro­duc­tive and re­lent­less woman as she reaches her twi­light years.

While many of the key events of Thatcher’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer are present in flash­back, much of the film is spent in the com­pany of the aged Thatcher, stalked by the ghost of her dead hus­band De­nis (Jim Broad­bent, be­low), with whom she con­verses al­most con­tin­u­ously. She is por­trayed as a pris­oner in her home, a pris­oner of her mem­o­ries and legacy. No mat­ter what your views, it’s hard not to feel sym­pa­thy for her as an older and iso­lated woman, and Streep’s per­for­mance – fea­tur­ing an im­pec­ca­ble ren­der­ing of that voice – is nu­anced.

The Iron Lady goes to great lengths to show that Thatcher is no longer the iron lady. It por­trays her as a woman who was used by her party. But it is too con­cerned with main­tain­ing our sym­pa­thy to show the spirit of Thatcher’s con­vic­tion with any sus­tained force, and re­mains res­o­lutely po­lit­i­cally neu­tral, for good or ill. Many view­ers will baulk at the gloss­ing over of some of Thatcher’s less ap­peal­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics es­pe­cially.

Per­haps the film’s great­est success – Streep’s mag­nif­i­cent per­for­mance aside – is in its por­trait of a mar­riage. Mar­garet Thatcher was one of a kind, and many of her ac­com­plish­ments she fought for alone. But De­nis was al­ways be­hind her, and ac­cept­ing of her sac­ri­fices. He was the one who knew her best.

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