Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Feminism drama’s an arresting study

DEALING with key moments in history on the cinematic screen has the potential to attract new audiences in great numbers.

DEALING with key moments in history on the cinematic screen has the potential to attract new audiences in great numbers. 

Retelling a specific event or social movement that changed the world and shifted attitudes in an engaging way can attract viewers years after that original chapter in history has well and truly passed.

Suffragette certainly has a good chance at the box office, with a stellar cast that includes Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep and Helena Bonham Carter.

The film charts the history of Britain’s early feminist movement and powerfully recreates the early 1900s.

Carey Mulligan stars as Maud, a young factory worker who discovers the cause of women’s equality.

Her colleague, Violet (Anne-Marie Duff), is campaigning for votes for women, and Maud hesitantly begins to take an interest, eventually becoming radicalised by a fierce world of hunger strikes, guerrilla tactics and brutal government reprisals. Mulligan is joined by Streep as the fearless feminist leader Emmeline Pankhurst, alongside Romola Garai as upper class campaigner Alice, Natalie Press as Emily Wilding Davison, and Bonham Carter as a local chemist who uses her shop as a secret base for meetings.

Make no mistake though, this is no rose-tinted, romanticised portrayal of the huge challenges faced by women living in this era.

They are essentially the foot soldiers of the early feminist movement — women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the forces of an increasingly brutal state.

These women were not primarily from the genteel educated classes — they were working women who had seen peaceful protest achieve nothing.

Radicalised and turning to violence as the only route to change, they were willing to lose everything in their fight for equality — their jobs, their homes, their children and their lives — and Maud was one such foot soldier.

Suffragette is up against strong competition in the civil rights drama genre after last year’s excellent Selma. But filmgoers looking for something with more substance after a summer of blockbusters will not be disappointed.

The film is now showing at Henley’s Regal Picturehouse.

David White

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