Many women in the theater loudly applauded when this film ended. Want to find out why?
Released nationally at the same time as Trumbo and Spotlight, this film provides a fascinating account of the struggle of women to receive the same legal rights and protections as men. Taking place in England at the end of World War I, it is a reminder that less than 100 years ago the treatment of women in the Western Hemisphere resembled that taking place in Saudi Arabia today.
Suffragette, directed by Sarah Gavron, provides an startling view of how women lived in England before 1920. While most of you were aware that women were denied the right to vote, did you also know that they had no standing in a marital relationship reflecting the terms of a divorce or child custody? You are left drawing the conclusion that we should lighten up a bit when criticizing the present day treatment of women by Muslim countries in the Middle East.
Carey Mulligan gives an Oscar worthy performance as Maud Watts, a worker in a sweat shop cleaning laundry. Happily married with a 8-year-old son, she gets involved in the women’s suffrage movement with disastrous consequences.
Ms. Mulligan is once again exceptional in her role as a young woman who is willing to risk imprisonment so that women can obtain the right to vote. She joins a national organization led by Emmeline Pankhurst (a small role by the legendary Meryl Streep) and she soon realizes that violence is the only option to force the government to rectify this injustice.
In the process, she joins forces with some activists women, three of them played by Anne-Marie Duff, Grace Stotter and one of my favorite actresses, Helena Bonham Carter. I risk leaving others out, but these women willingly accept a harsh jail sentence to force their government to pay attention to their cause.
Though the film has been criticized in some quarters for paying close attention to the struggle of Ms. Mulligan’s character as opposed to the cause itself, I thought the movie succeeded for that reason alone. Despite the fact that nearly everyone turns on Ms. Watts, including her husband, she refuses to buckle even when her beloved son is put up for adoption.
Women’s fight for justice and equality continues to this very day. While progress has been made, only a small number hold positions of influence on Wall Street. It is equally important to note that only men have been President in our country.
Don’t let this movie pass you by.