Film Review: Suffragette


Director: Sarah Gavron
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Whishaw, Meryl Streep

Rather than focus on figurehead of the suffragette movement Emmeline Pankhurst (seen only in a disappointingly brief cameo from Streep), director Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane) and writer Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady) chose instead to follow Maud Watts (Mulligan), a fictional lower-class laundry worker. Although initially reluctant, Maud is drawn into the epicentre of the suffragette movement, her fervour bolstered by steady germination of the notion that “there’s another way of living this life.”.

Suffragette has turned up the volume on conversations about the enduring imbalances of gender equality, wage gaps and workplace discrimination, but that’s not all. Uproar was caused by a Time Out shoot featuring the (white, privileged) lead actresses wearing t-shirts bearing famous Pankhurst quote “ I’d rather be a rebel than a slave” and criticised for racial insensitivity, connotations to the American confederacy, and presenting slavery as a ‘choice’, leading to widespread condemnation of the film for ignoring the contribution ethnic women made to the movement. Then, the London premiere was delayed when members of Sisters Uncut staged a ‘die-in’ to draw attention to government cuts affecting domestic abuse services, their message: two women a week die from domestic abuse, and “dead women can’t vote”. Suffragette is a good, if flawed, film but moreover deserves applause for reminding us all how far we have come, and how much further we have to go.

Originally published in Crack Magazine

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