London Film Festival Review: Sarah Gavron's Drama 'Suffragette'
by Amanda Keats
October 14, 2015
When Suffragette begins, Maud is not one. She's a working woman, a wife and a mother, going about her life as best she can, trying to be respectful and do as she's told. Her work is pretty grim but she's good at it. Instead of using this movie to tell the story of real people, writer Abi Morgan and director Sarah Gavron have created Maud, an amalgamation of many, many stories of real Suffragettes and everything that they endured. They then surround her with a few real stories but these characters remain in the background until needed. You know from the outset there is real truth to this fiction and, with Carey Mulligan at the lead, and Morgan and Gavron behind the scenes, this movie will not hide from the horrors faced. It's taken a very long time to make a movie about the Suffragettes but the angle chosen is spot on, and entirely worth the wait.
The absolute genius of Suffragette is that it doesn't spell anything out for its audience. Nothing is clear cut and as a result, people have come away from the movie with entirely different reactions and – perhaps most importantly – be keen to discuss them. It has sparked debate about the injustice that happened back then, and that which is still happening today. It makes you think and feel and care for those involved in a way a text book or documentary is unlikely to achieve because they really come alive on the screen. After all, the Suffragette movement was about more than one person and, through Maud, we get to see just some of the many different types who fought for the cause.
The movie offers numerous flawless performances but it is Carey Mulligan who steals the show, electric as Maud and showing the transition from obedient wife and mother to fighter with care and attention. Ben Whishaw and Brendan Gleeson bring depth to their respective roles, too, showing that they are also products of the time and both fighting for what they believe, just as our heroine does.
As things get more intense for our characters, the horror increases too. Some parts are truly horrific to watch and may send many viewers looking away. There are shots of women being force fed in prison while on hunger strike and many instances of abuse received by these women from the men in their life. Yet, despite the urge to look away, every moment of the movie has been put there on purpose in order for the viewer to fully appreciate the journey and it is all the more moving as a result. This is a heartbreaking story with no happy ending. Even though we know the end result – women finally being allowed to vote – we also know that things are going to have to get really nasty before that happens.
Yet, despite the uncomfortable scenes littered throughout, Gavron has crafted a masterpiece here that will surely appeal to a wide audience. She weaves the big events with the small and keeps the pace going at a rate that lulls you into a moment of calm one minute only to whack you over the head with another horror a moment later. The movie is made all the more intense by the reality behind it and the knowledge that this had to happen in order for me and other women to have the opportunity to vote today, all these years later.
That being said, this is not just a movie for women to enjoy. This is an important moment in our communal history and a story that should be told and then discussed by all. The impressive ensemble cast and the stunning sets really pull you in to the dirty world of early twentieth-century London and you will leave it feeling drained, outraged and empowered, all at once. Suffragette is truly gut-wrenching, heart-breaking cinema and left me an emotional wreck by the time the end credits started to roll. It is also important story-telling, beautifully executed, and packs a punch.
Amanda's London 2015 Rating: 10 out of 10
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