Votes for Women!
Mr C wasn’t really that keen on snuggling up on the back row with me to watch ‘Suffragette’ – so I was delighted when our eldest announced that it was one of the new films he wanted to see. Not, perhaps, the most obvious choice for an 11-year-old boy, but hey ho.
Even if you’ve not seen it already, I don’t really need to worry about spoiler alerts – it’s a familiar story, the suffragette struggle, and we know how it ended (although some of us might be a bit sketchy on the details). But the movie does a brilliant job of bringing that ‘yeah, women fought for the vote’ overview to life.
Lots been made of the performances by Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham-Carter and Meryl Streep (although she’s really only on screen for the blink of an eye). And rightly so. We both were really taken with the way Mulligan managed to convey her political awakening – and the pain of everything it costs her – with relatively little dialogue. Bonham-Carter is brittle and determined – and as utterly stunning as ever, except older and stronger.
But there were lots of other, smaller roles that gave the film so much more depth and texture. Natalie Press as Emily Wilding Davison was brilliant for the short time she was on screen – and even though we both knew what was about to happen to her, we both jumped and gasped when it did. And Anne-Marie Duff was deeply moving as a woman who kept being held back by her violent husband and her endless pregnancies.
One of the things we talked about afterwards was that the film didn’t do the simple ‘women want the vote, men don’t fancy that’ split. There were male characters who were sympathetic to the suffragette cause – and plenty of women who wanted nothing to do with it.
And the complexity of the male characters surprised me (although it probably shouldn’t have). Ben Whishaw, as the husband who has no idea how to react to his wife’s situation, had me both angry and sympathetic in turn, and Finbar Lynch – husband of one of the more militant women – had me blubbing and holding hands with H at one point. And Brendan Gleeson as the sinister face of police surveillance was complex, dynamic and properly threatening. But still, strangely, enormously engaging.
I’d definitely recommend it – as would my eldest. And I imagine History teachers up and down the land are rubbing their hands in anticipation of it coming out on DVD. It’s not necessarily the most comfortable watch, but it’s beautifully done and brings the sheer courage of the women involved in the suffrage movement out into the light – as it should be.
Check out the trailer, if you’ve not seen it, HERE.