Viewed from the 21st century, it’s difficult to imagine a time when women – 50% of the population – were not only denied the right to vote but equality with men on many levels. Held in human bondage, women were considered their husband’s property, along with their children. Read on…
In 1912, after 50 years of peaceful protest, the militant Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in London encouraged women in subversive acts of civil disobedience, endangering property – but never human life.
Although harassed laundry plant worker Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) didn’t consider herself a Suffragette, she’s inadvertently caught in a street skirmish, where she recognizes a co-worker, Violet Miller (Anne-Marie Duff), among the spirited agitators.
Spotted by the police, meek Maud becomes a ‘suspect,’ persecuted by skeptical Inspector Arthur Steed (Brendan Gleason) and his boorish cohorts, causing distress not only to her but also her husband/co-worker (Ben Whishaw) and their young son (Adam Michael Dodd) when she’s brutally imprisoned.
Chanting, “Deeds, not words,” Maud’s grueling struggle is inspired and encouraged by pharmacist Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter) and upper-class Alice Houghton (Romola Garai), who galvanize exploited working-class women to join the movement.
Eloquently scripted by Abi Morgan (“The Iron Lady”) and astutely directed by Sarah Gavron (“Brick Lane”), it’s a historical drama, filled with gritty, atmospheric authenticity, including ill-fated activist Emily Wilding Davis (Natalie Press), who stepped in front of King George V’s horse at the Epson Derby in 1913.
Delivering the most subtly ferocious and uncompromising performance of her career, Carey Mulligan (“Far From the Madding Crowd”) is magnificent. Although Meryl Streep is prominently featured in the advertising, her role is, basically, a cameo as defiant Emmeline Pankhurst, who spends far too much time in hiding.
During the credits, there’s a list of dates when various countries granted voting rights to women, concluding with Saudi Arabia, where women’s rights have been ‘promised’ but still not granted.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Suffragette” is a struggle-filled 7. And fiery Mulligan is the source of the film’s strength.