‘I would rather be a rebel than a slave…’
I am firmly of the view that there is no correlation between a films historical accuracy and how good it is. We all know that Braveheart is a load of old nonsense but it remains an irresistible piece of cinema. With that in mind, whilst it initially seems odd to base a film about the suffragettes, not on Emily Pankhurst or Emily Davison, but the fictional Maud Watts, the film doesn’t suffer as a result. Indeed, this gives the film makers the freedom to tell a heartbreaking and inspirational story without being too bogged down in history and biography.
‘Heartbreaking’ and ‘Inspirational’ are the key words for Sarah Gavron’s historical drama, note the absence of ‘Uplifting’. Suffragette does not attempt to sugar coat the appalling treatment of the women involved in the suffragette movement, not only by a patriarchal society, but tellingly, also by their own friends, families and co-workers. If the ending feels a little like an anti climax, that is because it was. As the film tells us, there was 15 years between Emily Davison’s self sacrifice and women being given the vote, an almost unbelievable turn of events.
To move away from the social aspect of the film for a moment, this is a film of strong performances and great acting. Carey Mulligan is still yet to top her all conquering turn in Never Let Me Go but Suffragette is the closest she has come. Helena Bonham Carter also excels, seeming to enjoy the freedom of not wearing a ridiculous costume under the direction of Tim Burton. Fittingly, Brendan Gleeson and Ben Whishaw both fall a little flat but then, this isn’t their story.
For anyone that thinks that the fight for equal rights for women is over I urge you to check the message boards for Suffragette on IMDB or read the comments below the trailer on YouTube. While ever people continue to use phrases like Feminazi and Social Justice Warrior, Suffragette will remain an important film. It is also a well made, brilliantly acted and entertaining film, and that is perhaps the most important thing.