Friday, November 13, 2015

Suffragette (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane) directs this solid and accurate film about women's  suffrage in early 20th Century Britain. The film is compelling, sensitive and well acted, despite it betraying a shade of period drama predictibility.

Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) is a young launderess held under oppression by her husband Sonny (Ben Whishaw.) Maud witnesses a suffrage riot. Violet (Anne-Marie Duff) encorages Maud to speak at a meeting since she is assaulted by her husband and understandably terrified.

Maud agrees and becomes further impassioned with the cause.

She gets arrested numerous times and Sonny blows a gasket. She places wrapped gunpowder in post boxes and upsets life wherever she can. At work, she slams an iron on her boss's hand.

She attracts the attention of Inspector Steed (Brendan Gleeson) who admires his adversary. Maud is labeled an anarchist, a threat to the status quo.

The iconic Meryl Streep appears in a fine cameo as the activist Emmeline Pankhurst who advocates violence, when and if necessary.

Shockingly, the film does not shy away from blood. Punches are thrown, bones are broken and women kicked. Blows to the stomach are delivered with impunity.

This is revolution.

 Scorn and fear are sad universalities and here again, men are filled with a shell-shocked disgust.

While the film does flirt with a Thomas Hardy flavor of woe, namely in the separation of the son, George (Adam Dodd), the story retains its suspense, primarily through the excellent acting of Mulligan, coupled with some apprehensive and sizzling camerawork, which transforms Maud into a smartly covert antihero who seeks refuge in old churches. Steed himself becomes a Javert from Les Miserables, obsessed with Maud as he weaves his way through a top-hatted crowd.

Though this is England in the late 1800s, it could just as well be Selma in the 60s. The McCarthy era or Stonewall.

"Suffragette" sports an excellent ensemble cast. In sharp, finely honed episodes it underscores the human condition locked in an infinite struggle for fairness and simply, what is right.

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