Film: Suffragette written by Abi Morgan, directed by Sarah Gavron










Suffragette which was released in 2015, deals with the fight for women's suffrage in Britain in its early days. Set in 1912-13,it focuses on the working class women of the time through its central, fictional figure of Maud, a laundry woman. We are taken through her growing awareness of the Suffragette movement, first as an observer caught up in a demonstration of direct action, through to her imprisonment and continued fight for the vote. We are shown the conditions which Maud has worked and lived in, and the compromises she has had to make in order to exist. Not all supporters of women's suffrage believed in taking a violent direct approach but it is after the women's testimonies before Parliament come to nothing, that many became increasingly militant.

The film shows us the effect on working women of supporting the suffrage movement. Maud's husband does not understand why it is not enough for her to be his husband, subject to his decisions. Women's place in society is determined by their husband. This is demonstrated most heartrendingly when she is cast out of the home and her son is given away to a middle class family to be adopted.

The film does not attempt to give us the whole picture around the women's suffrage movement. We are shown the consequences for some of those who defied the authorities, most brutally resulting in force feeding and imprisonment. This was only part of the background which led to the eventual decision to change voting regulations both for men and women. The film is set before the First World War during which the women's direct violent action was ceased. After the war, the authorities realised that they had to extend the franchise for men and women, following the efforts of all the British people. What the film does do is to capture the women's frustration, anguish and determination to carry on. Most movingly, the film finishes with actual footage from the funeral of Emily Wilding Davison who had died at the Derby, protesting near the King's horse.

It is hard to pick out individual actors but Carey Milligan produces a subtle and understated performance as the central character, Maud. Meryl Streep has a memorable cameo as the leader of the Women's Social and Political Union, appearing as a symbol of the movement both within the film and to the wider audience.

In short: an inspiring film which weaves actual events and people within a fictitious story. It held my attention right to the end of the rolling credits.  

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