Okay, looks like we have another historic / biopic / period piece film to tackle today everyone. I thought I’d be able to take a look at animated or action movie for a change, but nope. You’ll have to take my word on this that I didn’t set this list up beforehand, but I’m starting to think my brain internally conspired against me. Anyways, on with the review!
The basis for the story is quite simple, and deals with the battle for women’s right to vote in Britain just after the turn of the 20th Century. A Laundry worker named Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan)is reluctant to take part in the protests and action to have the Parliament take notice, but over time becomes more and more a part of the Suffragette group. But the times are against her and her friend’s vision, and she will have to make many sacrofices if their dream is to be realised.
You might be sitting back in your chair ready to just call this another “hot topic” piece that is catching on with the modern sentiments and battles for rights that are happening right now. And in one sense you are right. Women’s rights remain a massive obstacle worldwide and one that so many still have a ways towards achieving. But, this is going back to the most publicised incident that started it all, so it is an interesting story for audiences to see for themselves.
On top of that, it is a period piece, and illustrates how horrid times were for women back then. Or, how horrid times were for most people, but women especially so. The ruthless labour, working conditions, gigantic gap between the rich and everyone else, and the backlash against having your voice heard. They were extremely tough times from what this illustrates, so it works on that level along with the core plot details.
Being a joint-venture between Film4 and the BFI, this is a period piece that has plenty of attention to detail lavished upon it. They capture the streets of London quite well, and there’s no glamorisation of the times either. It is dirty and bleak, the way it should be if you want to be accurate. This along with the primary cast members are probably the big selling points for the film – such as Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep. They carry a nice energy into their characters and help to make them stand out in the narrative, so whenever they appear you can instantly recognise their mannerisms and look.
And being a period piece on such a major topic, they don’t shy away from the dark moments, such as the brutality aimed at them during their protests, and the vitreal aimed their way by the bystanders. What they were doing wasn’t just incredibly dangerous and against the general flow, but also likely to destroy their personal lives too. You get to witness quite a lot of that throughout the story, and it doesn’t make for fun viewing, that’s for certain.
However, I do have things to bring up in terms of the production. The camera work, although at times is quite nice, at other moments feels a bit awkward. This is mostly to do with scenes for Maud Watts, the camera just goes too far in at a jaunty angle in order to translate across emotion. But instead I just found it kind of an annoying tactic. The score is very unmemorable, and then there’s the “feel” of the film. It is mostly fine, but lacks the artistic force to truly capture this significant story in modern history. It is all just a bit plain – trundling along from scene to scene, hitting the emotional marks in an almost procedural manner. It lacks the punch that something such as “12 Years a Slave” or “Pride” had. By the end I understood how all the elements played out, but wasn’t moved by them in the way I was expecting to.
“Suffragette” brings back into focus a very important moment in history for women’s rights, but doesn’t do that moment all the justice it deserved. There are enough plus points in the design and casting choices to keep you watching, but not enough to stir the soul. A shame really – I had gotten so used to seeing very good movies of this genre in recent weeks that once one came along that felt disappointing, it felt me even more let down than usual.
Thanks for reading!