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Suffragette (6/10)

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.