An important moment in history comes off as a little more worthy than enthralling.



Carey Mulligan in the thick of it 


It’s hard to comprehend that only one hundred years ago in England women were such vilified and subjugated figures. Sarah Gavron’s picture of the suffragette movement in London, starting off in 1912, takes a fictitious wife and mother, Maud Watts, and charts her involvement with key figures in the party. Like her mother before her, Maud worked at the Glasshouse Steam Laundry from an early age and toiled for a third time longer than her male counterparts – for considerably less money. Besides the insalubrious working conditions – not to mention the routine scalding and headaches from the gas – the women were often subject to sexual abuse from their foremen.


This is inflammatory stuff and Gavron (Brick Lane) has corralled a magnificent cast – Carey Mulligan as Maud, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne-Marie Duff, Natalie Press, Romola Garai and, briefly, Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst. Unfortunately, though, the scenarist Abi Morgan (Brick Lane, The Iron Lady, Shame, The Invisible Woman) has failed to find a sufficiently gripping narrative to thrust the story forward, other than to itemise the misery of Maud’s life. Edu Grau's cinematography is also pretty miserable, a drab and grainy affair, captured via an agitated hand-held camera, presumably in an effort to inject a newsreel immediacy. It’s all very worthy, of course, but not very compelling.




Cast: Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson, Anne-Marie Duff, Meryl Streep, Ben Whishaw, Natalie Press, Romola Garai, Samuel West, Adrian Schiller, Lorraine Stanley, Amanda Lawrence, Finbar Lynch, Clive Wood, Geoff Bell.


Dir Sarah Gavron, Pro Alison Owen and Faye Ward, Screenplay Abi Morgan, Ph Eduard Grau, Pro Des Alice Normington, Ed Barney Pilling, Music Alexandre Desplat, Costumes Jane Petrie.


Film4/BFI/Ingenious Media/Canal+/Ciné+/Ruby Films/Pathé-Pathé.

106 mins. UK/France. 2015. Rel: 12 October 2015. Cert. 12A.