Suffragette

I have at last seen this, as promised when I began my Edith Cavell commemorations.

I still don’t understand the film’s Monday release date, but then, James Bond was also released on a Monday. So perhaps it wasn’t to link with an historical event, as I thought.

Do see my earlier post (Edith I) with a picture of a Norfolk suffragette act. I take issue that this film is so London based, but women were busy all round the country.

On the posters for Suffragette, there’s Meryl Streep with Carey Mulligan and Helena BC. The list of actresses sometimes includes Ann-Marie Duff, one of my favourites. It does not mention Natalie Press, who is the key…. shall I spoil this? If you don’t know who EWD is, and you want to see the film, look away now (or at the start of the next paragraph).

Emmeline Pankhurst, Ms Streep’s character, is kept mysterious and does a short speech, recalling Streep’s earlier British historical role – the Iron Lady. Here she’s another, doing a kind of reverse of Maggie leadership, but who also harms in the name of her vision. Yet Emmeline’s work is often more sympathised with and its wake left good for society after her death in 1928 – the year of full voting rights for women in Britain.

This film is set earlier than those events, and its denouement involves Natalie Press’s character’s famous deed of 1913. It is unclear as to how many other characters are real – such as Helena’s good doctor Edith Ellyn whose husband (a minor role) was the only man who showed any kindness – though shutting your wife in a cupboard for her own protection may be a controversial expression of it.

The lack of good men was an issue, for the men are too evil: The laundry boss yells cruel orders and a more intimate kind of abuse. The main character, who is fictional, has a weedy but traditional husband who I expected to come on side and support her as Maud’s own draw to the suffragette cause grows.

What was most powerful about Suffragette was the closing list of years  that women’s voting rights were granted. New Zealand led the way in the late 1800s. Sadly, many of us weren’t shocked at the recence of Saudi Arabia – and that its promise is still unfulfilled; what made me gulp was that countries in Europe we may consider enlightened – such as Sweden – took till the 1970s. Many women had to wait til World War II was over to slip into a ballot box.

And yet the system is still one that doesn’t give fair voting rights, despite being legally allowed to cast a vote.

More film reviews soon – Steve Jobs, The Dressmaker and Carol

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