SUFFRAGETTE Review – Emotionally Gripping, Resonating, Impacting

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SUFFRAGETTE, from Pathe and Focus Features, brings to the screen a bio-pic of the Suffragette movement in London, a precursor to the modern Women’s movement, and the sacrifices they endured for a belief, a cause, a hope.


Directed by Sarah Gavron, SUFFRAGETTE stars Carey Mulligan, Helene Bonham Carter, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne-Marie Duff, Natalie Press, Geoff Bell, Finbar Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Adam Michael Dodd and Brendon Glesson and Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst. SUFFRAGETTE was written by Abi Morgan.

The Suffragettes, were in their time a radical group of women, who believed in equality. As the same back breaking work men performed was expected of them and more, they received less on the dollar than a slave would receive.

The film opens in London, with a happy family, Maud, embodied brilliantly, by Carry Mulligan, her husband, Sonny, played by Ben Whishaw, and son, George, played by Adam Michael Dodd. Not bad for the time, Irish born and breed, loyal to the King and expectation of wifely duties, loyalties, submissiveness to the husbands rule, wasn’t so much a task as a pleasure and she expected life to be that way.

Maud worked in the laundry, as did most of the women in the town. She started working at seven and without choice, she stayed. It wasn’t the back-breaking work or the injury, hot water burns, as much as it was the sexual torture she endured as her supervisor Mr. Taylor, played by Geoff Bell, routinely raped the young female workers.

Maud’s life would’ve remained the same if by accident she hadn’t stumbled onto a Suffragette demonstration, as it was. Women, were suddenly militant and breaking the windows of the local stores. A continued campaign, not unlike other causes, a dedication to the change. The women of the Suffragette were fighting for future generations; the hope that some would see and experience the freedom, or some of the spoils of victory, burned in their hearts and kept hope alive. Even with sad and unexpected defeats, hope lived on.

As with most burdens female suffering became too much to bear for this small band of outcasts who were growing in numbers, strength and courage. By accident, Violet Miller, played by Anne-Marie Duff, had agreed to give testimony to the House of Commons but was physically assaulted presumably by her husband, so Maud testified on her behalf on the conditions women face every day in the laundry. With the promise of change, the women gathered waiting for the decision that would change the next years of their life.

When a vote of “No” came down the women who remained non-violent as they were more stunned, and shocked by the impossibility of the decision, were set upon by Inspector Arthur Steed, played by Brendon Gleeson and his crew. Some were beaten, physically assaulted and a group considered the core, arrested. Jail, with its horrors was meant to shock the women into submission.

Upon release, they were greeted by a Suffragette who awarded them medals. With each incarceration they received a medal of honor. By accident Maud Watts became a suffragette, united with women, for the future of women both known and unknown.

SUFFRAGETTE, shifts as this point. Maud, with one dimension, had been replaced by Maud the multi-dimensional, the dutiful, and changed committed to the cause and torn between truth and love. Her decision became the catalyst for her husband and family to be taken from her. Women in 19th Century England had no rights to family. A husbands rule was law.

Maud learned to live without her husband and as she had taken to seeing her son while he was playing it was her son that kept her alive.

The film depicts a compilation of events in many lives and women were stripped of their children, as is so vividly depicted here. George is adopted out from under her without her knowledge or consent. It is an emotionally wrenching scene.

Alone, now, with only the cause, Maud becomes very much the activist. She along with Edith Elly, played by Helena Bonham Carter, Violet Miller, Emily Wilding Davison, played by Natalie Press, become the core waiting on the words of Emmeline Pankhurst, played by Meryl Streep, who is forced into hiding to remain free.

Pankhurst effects and leadership on the women, also brought the harshness of local law enforcement headed up by Inspector Arthur Steed who was given full authority to bring the women into submission.

The women determined to win the right to vote continue brining attention to their cause through various illegal and dangerous actions. The idea of bringing attention to the cause at any cost has become the driver for this group of women.

The final scenes are stunning, gripping and an overwhelming dedication to the cause. The atrocities the women face in prison as they chose hunger strikes as their voice is met with similar tactics used on the prisoners who chose the same at Guantanamo Bay. Historically, some of these women were force fed more than forty times.

SUFFRAGETTE, a bio-pic and more importantly a modern timely piece as women fight, even in the entertainment industry to have a voice, to receive the same wages for the same work. To be considered for work even as the traditional window for youth and beauty, both of which are subjective, closes. Considerations most men don’t have.  

For all women, for those who want to be leaders and wonder, especially as countries, allies and even those considered less powerful have elected women to lead, when if ever will the United States, as a people and nation, evolve.

SUFFRAGETTE projects so many stories and messages, equality is a right, of all citizens, and of women. Choice is the greatest gift to all mankind; equality must be the only choice as it is woven into the law. The shoulders of these standard bearers were stronger then even they thought as a century later their story is being told, and celebrated.

Emotionally gripping, SUFFRAGETTE resonates with timely topics of equality, equal pay and equal rights. The idea of course, being equality in word and deed, not simply in word only.

SUFFRAGETTE is impacting as it revels the seeds women have planted for future generations even while knowing they will never see the strength of change, of strong women, trees of the future, a sea of healthy, whole equal women.

Having the opportunity to participate in the media day my interview with SUFFRAGETTE Producers Faye Ward and Alison Owen will follow.

SUFFRAGETTE opens in select theaters October 23, 2015 and expands everywhere after. Check your local listings.

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