We are showing this film on International Women’s Day, as part of a mini-season of feminist films.
This stirring story centres on Maud (Carey Mulligan), a working wife and mother whose life is forever changed when she is secretly recruited to join the UK’s growing suffragette movement. Galvanized by the outlaw fugitive Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep, in a cameo role), Maud becomes an activist for the cause alongside women from all walks of life. When increasingly aggressive police action forces Maud and her dedicated fellow suffragettes underground, they engage in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with the authorities, who are shocked as the women’s civil disobedience escalates and sparks debate across the nation. One of the shocking aspects of the films is its exposure of early surveillance, using photography, to monitor and track down the women involved; Brendan Gleeson plays the patronizing and conspiring Inspector Arthur Steed, who masterminds the operation.
Directed by Sarah Gavron, from a script by Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady), Suffragette takes place in 1912 and 1913, when the 10-year-old Women’s Social and Political Union, founded by Emmeline Pankhurst, had intensified its tactics to include hunger strikes and arson attacks. By the time the film opens, Pankhurst has gone into hiding and the movement is being carefully tracked by the authorities. Gavron has done her homework in bringing the dramatically stratified world of Suffragette to life. From the outset, the film is suffused with bustling atmosphere and a heavy sense of dread. It has a central galvanizing performance by Carey Mulligan, who plays a reticent laundry worker whose consciousness is raised by a feisty colleague, played in a memorably sinewy, spirited performance by Anne-Marie Duff. The makers of the film were right to focus on Everywoman in the suffragette movement, rather than the upper middle class Pankhursts, which would have been the Hollywood way.
It has won three awards at the 2015 Women Film Critics Circle Awards: Best Actress, for Carey Mulligan, Best Female Images in a Movie and Best Ensemble as well as Best Supporting Actor, for Brendan Gleeson, at the British Independent Film Awards.
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Venue: William Loveless Hall