Movie investors are bankrolling period or historical dramas centered around specific social or political issues, with a politically correct account. “Suffragette” (directed Sarah Gavron and written by Abi Morgan) is the latest such effort, set largely in grimy London just before the Great War, with a Dickens look.
Carey Mulligan plays the fictional heroine Maud Watts, married to a handsome Sonny (Ben Whishaw) and toiling in a laundry with burn scars as badges of proletarian honor. We watch her get involved in the women’s rights (especially suffrage) movement, sacrificing all, with little to lose – well, she can lose the right to raise her children. The movement commits acts that would be viewed as domestic terrorism today. Eventually, she winds up being force-fed while on a hunger strike in jail. She is that committed. But she at one point actually gets to address Parliament (with a scene actually filmed there).
The story merges with truth at some point, with the death of Emily Wilding Davison (Natalie Press) at a race event, making her a dreaded martyr, and turning the corner on the movement. Britain gave women some voting rights even before the US (19th Amendment in 1920).
Meryl Streep appears as the real Emmeline Pankhurst.
I’ve seen very determined activism, or at least rhetoric, in my own past, as with the People’s Party of New Jersey back in 1972.
I found myself wondering what drives this patriarchal attitude in so many heterosexual men, something I don’t share. I can only see myself in that sort of situation of procreation had come to mean more to me personally than it did when I was younger, and that would only happen if I had been better at “manly things” than I was.
The official site is here (Focus Features, Pathe, Film4).
I saw the film before a fair Friday afternoon crowd at Angelika Mosaic in Fairfax Va.