by Tony Medley
Runtime 106 minutes.
OK for children.
If this movie is accurate, always a dicey proposition, life in 1912
England was drab and drear, especially for women. This is a part of the
big story of the suffragette movement at that time to get women the
right to vote. Although itís told through the eyes of Maud Watts (Carey
Mulligan), who is an amalgam of many women, itís really the story of
Emily Wilding Davison, who risked her life for the movement. Davison is
a minor character in this film, an associate of Maudís and sheís
effectively played by Natalie Press.
Whatís moving about this film is the way director Sarah Gavron recreates
the dismal life led by the denizens of London, especially the women, who
had few rights and, according to this film at least, were basically
chattel of their husbands.
And men donít fare well at all in this film. The heavy is Brendan
Gleeson who plays Inspector Arthur Steed, another fictional character,
who is out to defeat the womenís march towards equality. Meryl Streep is
advertised as a star of the film, but this is blatantly false
advertising and it should be stopped. A cameo is a short appearance and
it should be advertised as such. She couldnít have been on the set more
than a day to shoot her few scenes. For some who arenít enamored of Ms.
Streep, this will be good news.
Mulligan doesnít need Streep, though. Sheís at least as good an actress,
if not better, and while she doesnít carry the film, she certainly gets
across the squalid life these people led. Itís painful to see how sheís
treated by her husband, Sonny Watts (Ben Whishaw).
The film recreates what it was like to work in what was almost slave
labor in clothes washing establishments where women worked their entire
lives washing clothes. They didnít have much to look forward to. But
what it doesn't do is really zero in on how the women finally
accomplished what they were striving for. It's like showing the third
inning of the third game of the World Series.
I canít encourage people to run out and see this movie because itís
extraordinarily slow and depressing and the cinematography accentuates
the darkness of the lives they were leading. It seems as if the sun
never shone in London in 1912-13.
The climax occurs at the Epson Derby. Although the film closes with
actual newsreel footage of the aftermath, it doesnít show the newsreel
of the actual event, choosing to recreate it. Although I have little
objection to the recreation, I love archival films of actual events. As
long as they are showing the aftermath news footage, they should have
shown the event as it was filmed also. Iíve seen it and itís moving,
especially when you know the story. If they didn't show it during the
film, they should have included it under the end credits.