“You want me to respect the law? Make the law respectable!”
High expectations, great casting, dark and honest scenery, amazing acting and innovative direction of a very complex subject – even before the actual release, Suffragette and its director Sarah Gavron were on a constant pressure. And rightfully so. But was it a genuine success?
Suffragette is a story about feminists/members of the British women’s suffrage movement of the early 20th century. The focus is on Maud Watts (played brilliantly by Carey Mulligan), who, by no intention on her own (at least not in the beginning) slowly gets sucked in the reality working women must face. After failing to make a difference with peaceful protests, the only route to achieve anything in this respect was to seriously radicalise them. And with the violence comes the penalty. However, they were willing to lose everything in their hopeless fight for equality – jobs, homes, children and their freedom.
I believe that many people who saw this movie said to themselves: “Oh, wait a minute, this sounds familiar”. And it does. I’m hoping most of you will remember Iron Jawed Angels, an American TV movie from 2004 starring Hilary Swank about the same subject (and in similar time – 1917), just another country, across the Atlantic. Well, many of the aspects were quite similar, and quite rightfully so. What writer Abi Morgan and director Sarah Gavron have done here is quite straightforward – they created all the characters and situations from many stories of real Suffragettes from that period. For us Londoners it was great to see what London really looked like in that period – old, grainy and filtery. And the fact that this was the first film that was allowed to be shot in the British Houses of Parliament since the 1950s, gave an additional colour to the whole concept.
Besides the fact that the casting is absolutely on point here, only one person really stole the show – Carey Mulligan. She made this movie what it is. Her need to fight gradually climbed inside of her and she managed to show that gradation so clearly that makes you think she felt this role on another level, and I will dare to say, more than any other she played. And when you’re backed by a brilliant Helena Bonham Carter (who plays Edith Ellyn, one of the main members of the Suffrage movement) and very memorable Brendan Gleeson (inspector Arthur Steed), your job is little easier.
But when it comes to supporting crew members, one person definitely deserves her own special paragraph – Meryl Streep of course. She’s playing Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the British suffragette movement with such an ease that you actually felt sad she wasn’t in it properly (well, more than 5 minutes overall). However, I guess when you are that good of an actress, you don’t need extra time to score and win the game. You can finish the job in the first half.
This film was about choices more than anything, a simple yet effective with a clear and strong message. I assure you, not a single person left the cinema that day not reminiscing about certain scenes or words. But that’s not enough to call a film a success. There were loads of things missing in the script and especially in filming. Not even the brilliant yet not persistent music score by an Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat (The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2014) could helped. It was a valuable attempt by Sarah Gavron (this is her second feature film), but unfortunately it missed the punch line. Especially in the last couple of minutes. However, even though this film might have lacked a decent punch, her direction and a very good script had a strong outcome.
One peculiar thing happen when I was watching it. By no plan of my own, in the cinema I was surrounded by very young girls, from a nearby college, whose faces I will never forget. The power of the words on the screen and the sufferings of the women were reflected on their visages so strongly that it was obvious even after the ending that this subject will be discussed for hours to come. Perhaps even days.
No wonder than that at the London premier of Suffragette, a feminist action group jumped the barriers and laid on the red carpet to protest against cuts to domestic violence services, declaring “the battle isn’t over yet”, “dead women can’t vote” and “we are suffragettes”.
As previously said, the concept of this film surely made a lot of people think twice. Lately, as you probably noticed, lots of actresses and few actors are hitting the headlines with Hollywood’s Gender Pay Gap. There’s something so terribly wrong with this world in this respect. It’s 2015 people and this problem still persists, one way or another. And the sooner we admit it, the sooner it will change and stabilize.
“I’d rather be a rebel than a slave.”