True woman power on show in powerful story

Anne-Marie Duff (Violet) and Carey Mulligan (Maud)
Anne-Marie Duff (Violet) and Carey Mulligan (Maud)

Matt Adcock review Suffragette (12A), starring Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep and Helena Bonham Carter. Tweet Matt at @Cleric20

Women eh? Can’t live with ‘em, can’t trust them to vote or understand the complex workings of parliament apparently…

Wait, this isn’t early 20th century Britain (thank goodness), here we have a brutally frank, emotionally charged and brilliantly female empowering drama set around the struggles of the suffragette women’s movement in London circa 1912.

There is much to enjoy in this cinematic trip detailing the foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, who include the initially reluctant activist Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan), the bold chemist Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter) and overall suffragette mastermind Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep).

This is a film that blows the doors off the corrupt power grab of the men who ran everything and held all the control. From the sexual abuse of the under-age female workers by their bosses, through to the casual and unaccountable police violence against women, director Sarah ‘Brick Lane’ Gavron captures the heart-breaking widespread acceptance by the general populace that ‘it’s just this way, and it’s not going to change’.

That is until sufficient women stood up to the male-dominated authorities by taking the law into their own hands, and managed to change the world.

Maud acts as the emotional core of the film and Mulligan is just superb in the lead role. Her inspirational struggle which see her lose her job, home and family is hard to watch at points but for viewers (of either sex) her fight for dignity is more gripping than many machine-tooled cinematic thrillers.

Suffragette expertly captures the abject horror of the women’s situation and has a great cinematic sweep in bringing the dirty cobbled streets of the capital to life.

The men of the film surprisingly do not come out well – Ben Whishaw is good as the wimpish Sonny, a man trapped between his love for his wife (Mulligan) and the consequences of becoming a social pariah if he supports her in any way.

But award for biggest scumbag is a toss up between vile, lecherous boss Norman Taylor (Geoff Bell) and Inspector Steed (Brendan Gleeson) – the copper tasked with taking the suffragettes down.

Essential viewing.