Film Review: Suffragette (UK, 2015)

Powerful and utterly inspirational Sarah Gavron’s latest film Suffragette follows the brave women of the suffrage movement in Britain during the 19th and 20th century. This historical drama draws upon the daily abuse faced by women during a time period when they had no rights at all, and a group of women who would no longer tolerate such injustice. It expresses the true struggle and sacrifice many women underwent to gain the right to vote.

The protagonist of the film Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) is a 24 year old laundress who has worked in horrendous conditions since she was a child. Discontented with her employee and the treatment of women Maud becomes involved in the suffrage movement lead by Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep) after unexpectedly stumbling into a nearby suffrage riot. She soon becomes very passionate about the cause (the equal rights for women) and together with her co-worker Violet Miller (Anne-Marie Duff), the local pharmacist Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter) and others they begin to plot havoc around London, after their right to vote following a testimony was not granted. Maud states, “We break windows, we burn things, because war’s the only language men listen to.”

Maud sacrificed everything she had for the cause and her goal soon becomes the equality of women. She and the other suffragettes found themselves in prison numerous times for fighting for what they believed in. Here they went on hunger strike for such long durations that they were force fed through their noses. Nevertheless, even having undergone such horrific experiences they never lost spirit and continued to strive forward for a better life. After many tactics and plans, that the police were constantly trying to intercept, it was only until the one courageous and spontaneous suicidal act made by Emily Davison (after standing in front of the kings horse during the Epsom Derby) that truly drew to light the sheer degeneration felt by women during that time. This courageous act became known throughout the world and was the start of political change.

The film was excellently directed and put together and the actors truly embraced such strong characters. Gavron’s film certainly serves as a great example and expression of what women went through to be granted the right to vote and is a reminder that we must not take such a right for granted. It was also interesting to discover at the end of the film an account of the years in which women were able to vote in countries throughout the world, with Australia as one of the first. And then also the shocking discovery that there are countries today that still do not allow women to vote; ultimately proving that there is still a long way to go. This is also reflected through the current unequal pay system between the sexes within many industries. Nonetheless, the film made for an excellent watch and is a definite must see.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Suffragette was reviewed as part of the BBC First British Film Festival 2015. It will receive general release in Australia from 26th December 2015.