One of the good things about living in the UK is getting British films early. However, nowadays, finding time to review them is pretty problematic. So, in honor of Suffragette’s limited release in the US (a week later), let’s review it!
IMDb summary: The foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State.
Personally, I get really angry when watching movies about minority rights. Although, I should not call women a minority, since we inhabit half of the world. Anyway, Suffragette, like 12 Years a Slave, Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom, The Butler, and a plethora of other movies, angered me in a good kind of way – in a way that makes you want to do something with your life and change the world for the better. For this reason, I believe that everyone should watch Suffragette. In addition, I appreciate movie industry’s efforts to bring important issues to the forefront. How many people would actually research historical facts themselves? But when you put the same story into a visual media format, it instantly gets more attention.
The film’s script was written by Abi Morgan – a British playwright and screenwriter. I have not seen her previous films, but would love to check them out someday, when I have time to do that. I believe that she did justice to this story. I would like to discuss a few plot points:
- The thing that really added a lot of flame into my overall angry/inspired physiological state after watching the film was the male characters. And not the ones who were actual douche bags. The main character’s husband was a terrible person. He acted like a victim and then just gave his son away. Even the detective, who was trying to stop Suffragette movement was a more likable character since he at least could justify his actions by saying that he was only trying to enforce the law (though, the law was definitely wrong that time). But the husband, who should have been supportive, was a complete disappointment. The film did a great job of reversing the roles of male characters and playing upon the viewers’ (or at least my) expectations.
- The movie also portrayed the fact that not all women wanted to fight for the cause. And while I disagree with their decision, I still believe that they were entitled to choose. I have already explained to you that I believe in feminism (contemporary way of fighting for women’s rights) as a choice when I reviewed Cinderella. Also, I have recently studied lots of fairy-tales in my English course at university and definitely realized that these stories are not as black and white as one might think.
- I loved how the film portrayed Suffragettes as a group. Although the movie focused a lot on one individual, you could still sense that she was a part of something bigger.
- Lastly, the end credits included the list of historical dates when women received voting rights in various countries. And sadly, some of the dates were not past but present ones. This just shows that the fight is not over and we have a long way to go. The film’s narrative also portrayed the idea of a long fight: the film was set in 1912 and the actual voting rights in the UK were received only in 1918 (partly) and in 1928 (fully). Other countries established equal voting even later.
Suffragette was directed by Sarah Gavron who had her start making documentaries and later transitioned into narrative films. It is not really surprising that this film was made by a female director since it tackles women’s issues. However, I am really happy that it was directed by a woman, because I do not think that a male voice could have brought this story to live in a proper way. Although, I am not the kind of movie goer who pays a lot of attention to gender, race or skin color of a director, screenwriter or an actor and I believe in absolute equality, I still think that some individuals can tackle some issues better than others. I love how I contradict myself in the same sentence. Eh, what the heck: we can have ‘to each their own’ and ‘everything to all’ in the 21st century.
Talking about the visual aspects of the film, I have to admit that I did not really noticed them since the narrative was so strong. It overpowered both the Mise-En-Scene and Cinematography or it would be better to say that all three elements worked in perfect unison to create a flawless continuity. On a side note, some scenes for the film were filmed in the actual Houses of Parliament!
- Carey Mulligan as Maud Watts was a great leading lady. Her on-screen transition was simultaneously heartbreaking and empowering. Mulligan did a great job. I am a fan of hers – especially loved her last film – Far From The Madding Crowd – where she also played a strong female in a male world in a slightly different (earlier) period. She has also previously worked with the screenwriter of Suffragette in 2011’s Shame.
- Helena Bonham Carter as Edith Ellyn was also amazing as one would expect. I became a fan of hers back when she was in Harry Potter films, but I also really loved The King’s Speech, Les Miserables and Alice, which she also has starred in. Interesting fact, according to Wikipedia, Bonham Carter is the great-granddaughter of H. H. Asquith, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1908–16, the prime years of the suffrage movement, which he opposed. Great granddaughter is going against her great granddad’s will – props to her.
- Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst was also a nice addition to the cast. However, I can definitely understand why a lot of people were angry about the false advertisement. Streep had one scene/speech in the film and one encounter with our main character and while she definitely played an important figure of the movement (the leader), she should not have been put on the poster of the film. I would not even call her a supporting actress in this film, at best it was a cameo appearance.
- Natalie Press as Emily Davison. Interestingly, I was not familiar with this actress only a few weeks ago, but then we watched the short film Wasp by Andrea Arnold in the film class. I really enjoyed that short movie, which portrayed raw social realism realistically. It was one of Press’s early films and she was great back then and is still a great actress now. She should have had that 3rd spot on the poster because of that spoiler-y reason at the end.
- The cast also included Anne-Marie Duff as Violet Miller. I loved the contrast between her’s and Mulligan’s characters: one was becoming more fearless and independent, while another had to lose her independence for, again, a spoiler-y reason.
- The two males of the film, whose stories I have already discussed were played by Brendan Gleeson (the detective) and Ben Whishaw (the husband). Previously, I have only seen Gleeson in Harry Potter films as well as in Edge of Tomorrow and Stonehearts Asylum. He will also star in In the Heart of Sea later this year. Speaking about Whishaw, I am a fan of his since Cloud Atlas, so it was quite weird to not like him as a character because he usually plays very likeable ones. He will also star in In the Heart of Sea, which comes out on Christmas, but we will also see him in Spectre next week. He will also be in The Danish Girl – another quite controversial film, which I can’t wait for. Whishaw sure is having a busy 2015.
All in all, Suffragette was a great movie about an important issue. While it might not be an entertaining film to watch, it is definitely an important one. This historical and, at the same time, very recent story was brought to life by amazing on screen performances and splendid off screen work.
Trailer: Suffragette trailer
12 thoughts on “Movie review: Suffragette”
Despite the somewhat melodramatic tone, Carey and the other actresses kept me glued to the screen. It also brings up issues relevant to today’s social movements, such as, is violence ever acceptable in pursuit of social justice? The combination of real and fictitious characters worked for me, and the production values were good 🙂
I saw this film last year. Disappointing, with too much scenery and not enough depth. Character development was shallow. Yet, as you point out, women’s vote was an important victory. For some women the price was too high.