Film Review: Suffragette
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★★★★☆ Focusing not on a legendary figure of the movement (although prominent on the publicity posters Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst appears for the briefest of scenes), Suffragette chooses to tell the story of a fictional laundry worker, 24-year-old Bethnal Green native Maud Watts. Telling a fictional story, albeit a well-informed and historically accurate one, takes away the rhetoric and historical shadow that obscures the reality of the suffragettes: real, working women, whose lives to this point have left them with no choice but to demand change. The narrative of the one woman-amongst-many reminds us that the suffrage movement is not a long-ago event now consigned to the history books; it is a real story, about real people, with real – and devastating – consequences. Focusing on Maud allows the filmmakers to let the everywoman story to shine through, giving an entirely human face to a story that we might only know vaguely. Script writer Abi Morgan – also responsible for Shame, The Iron Lady, Brick Lane and TV drama The Hour – has created a dialogue that is filled with weighty moments. The brief yet loaded script decisions are understandably focused on Maud, and the moments of realisation that lead her into her path of militancy - moments that fall like a dead weight on her conscience when she’s speaking to Detective Steed (Brendan Gleeson), or the owner of the laundry where she has worked her entire life, or even her own husband. A daughter named after her husband’s mother, who would have go on to have exactly the same life that Maud herself has lived, had she been born before Maud and her fellow suffragettes began their campaign? The decisions Maud makes come directly from the moments of realisation that we see her experiencing; her choices, clearly led to via the situations she finds herself in, are almost impossible to question.
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