Abi Morgan, writer of award winning films Shame and The Iron Lady, reunites with director Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane) to give us a stark and brutal account of the suffragette movement. A film of historical magnitude and human injustice, Suffragette demands audiences watch with sympathy and respect.

Suffragette Carey Mulligan

Avoiding a straight biopic of political game-changers Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep) and Emily Wilding Davison (Natalie Press) who appear only briefly, Morgan captures the movement from the perspective of an ordinary, working-class wife and mother. Maud’s (Carey Mulligan) simmering recognition of injustice is fed by daily exposure to sexual abuse, poverty and law that privileges men.

Mulligan’s hallmark subtlety (An Education, Never Let Me Go) ekes out every last drop of emotion as Maud’s gradual transition into a political activist coincides with increasing stigmatisation by both women and men. That Morgan squeezes hunger strikes, patriarchal family laws and key historical events into the life of her fictionalised character without ever feeling contrived is no mean feat.

As Pankhurst advocates civil-disobedience, Suffragette touches delicately on issues of modern concern too: from violent pursuit of political goals to fundamentalist recruitment. However, Gavron doesn’t entirely connect the dots – any reference to debate about violence in Pankhurst’s inner circle is succinct – and audience reflection on the issue after the credits roll is by no means guaranteed.

Suffragette’s grass-roots experience makes for a slower, smaller film than injustice biopics like Selma and Lincoln but, in its tenacious depiction of one generation’s far-reaching sacrifice, becomes equally poignant, compelling and resonant.

 

VERDICT: ★ ★ ★ ★ 4/5

 

Certificate: 15
Running time: 106 minutes
Images: © 2015 Le Pacte
UK release date:

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