Review by Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
Suffragette is based on a true story of the a group of women who advocated their right to vote in 1912. The Film centers on Maud (Carey Mulligan), a working wife and mother, whose life is forever changed when she is secretly recruited to join the U.K.’s growing suffragette movement. Maud joins the movement against the wishes of her husband after witnessing a suffragette protest. After the suffragettes are brutally beaten they are forced to work underground and become labeled outlaws by authorities.
The biggest strength of the Film is its direction. Sarah Gavron shoots the protest scenes like contemporary news footage, blurring the line between past and present. The camera frames tightly on individuals faces and bodies during protest scenes as they are being brutally beaten by policemen. It’s not only the shots that Gavron executes magnificently, but she also doesn’t shy away from the shocking brutality the suffragettes endured. Scenes from inside the jail, where the suffragettes were consistently put, show horrendous violence forced upon the women. If this Film was directed by someone else these scenes may have been tamer. Yet, Gavron stayed true to the suffragettes who fought for women’s rights no matter how unsettling audiences will feel.
There are some flaws in this Film, but they’re all forgotten when Carey Mulligan is on-screen. She gives a bold yet heart-wrenching performance as the working wife and mother, disappearing into Maud. Through each scene, Mulligan transforms Maud from a woman who never had a voice to a woman no one can silence. Audiences will forgive all the violent act the suffragettes performed because of how superbly Mulligan has humanized her character.
Particularly poingnant is Meryl Streep in a five-minute monologue as an in-hiding movement leader Emmeline Pankhurst, one of the few opportunities we see or hear from her in the Film.
Suffragette is an impactful piece on how far we’ve come with Women’s Rights, yet reminds us also how far we still have to go.
Universal Pictures Canada release SUFFRAGETTE in Toronto on Friday, October 30, 2015, with additional cities to follow.