You know my Suffragette City is outta sight, she’s alright.
Suffragette, is a hard film to watch; not because it’s a bad film, in fact it’s quite good. It’s a difficult movie to sit through because it’s hard to imagine, in this day and age when we possess so many freedoms, a time when women were treated with such little regard simply because they were born female.
The story revolves around Maud Watts (Carrie Mulligan, Drive), a young wife and mother, who works as a washerwoman in a rundown industrial laundry in England. One day while delivering a package, she gets caught up in a Suffragette protest, and recognizes one of the participants as Violet (Anne-Marie Duff), a woman she works with at the laundry. Initially, Maud wants no part of the “troublemakers,” but feels for Violet and agrees to go with her when she is scheduled to give her testimony in front of Parliament; a move the Suffragettes hope will lead to women being able to vote. However, when Violet is unable to speak, Maud steps in, and is swept up in the battle for equality.
At first, it appears that Maud’s husband Sonny (Ben Whishaw, Skyfall) is one of the good guys. And he is nice, until Maud develops an opinion of her own, and continues to attend the Suffragette meetings against his wishes. Sonny is unable to handle the scrutiny of his boss, the same man Maud works for, the taunting from his peers, or the shunning they receive from the neighbors. Needless to say, Maud’s involvement in the movement, causes a huge rift in their marriage.
The remarkable Meryl Streep plays Emmeline Pankhurst, the real life leader of the Suffragette movement in Britain. Her onscreen time is minimal, but Streep possesses a strength and grace that only she could convey in such a short period of time. Cary Mulligan has the chops to helm this film, and her performance is intense and powerful. You see her transform from a meek little woman, into someone with the quiet strength and determination necessary to deal with the brutality that she and her fellow Suffragettes endure from police, and the male dominated society they live in.
Anne-Marie Duff is spot on as the scruffy Violet, a woman beaten down by life, who introduces Maud to the Suffragette movement. Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech) is wonderful in the role of Edith Ellyn, the local health care provider who was discouraged by her father to become an actual doctor. While Maud, Edith and Violet are amalgamations of many different women of the time, Natalie Press on the other hand, like Streep, portrays someone who took part in the actual Suffragette movement. She plays Emily Wilding Davison, a woman so devoted to the Suffragettes, that she makes the ultimate sacrifice. Davison chooses the 1913 Epsom Derby where King George V would be attending to make her definitive statement. Knowing the event will be covered by the press from around the world, she steps in front of a horse owned by the King and is trampled by its hooves. Her death brought a great amount of attention to their cause, not just in England, but worldwide. There is some debate whether or not Emily martyred herself purposely, or simply made a tragic mistake that led to her death. Either way, her martyrdom led to real voting reforms for women in Britain.
What I love about Suffragette is it tackles, in all its stark brutality, the real life struggles of these brave women. It doesn’t speak in hyperboles, or talk about a phony war on women that we hear all too much about today. These ladies were actually dealing up close and personal with discrimination, and second class citizenry on a level women in most Western nations today can’t even imagine. The Suffragettes peacefully protested for 50 years to no avail, finally growing tired of waiting to be delivered from their oppression, they fought their way to freedom with strength, determination, and yes, sometimes violence.
Suffragette (Blu-ray) is a 2.40:1/1080p transfer that does a fantastic job using drab colors to show the bleakness of the times. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA Audio, is clear and easy to see, just took me a while to adjust to the thick cockney accents. Extras include 3 behind the scenes featurettes, and a commentary with director Sarah Gavron and screen writer Abi Morgan. The Suffragette movement is one that we often overlook, but these women started a revolution that unfortunately is still necessary in parts of the world even today.
Hey man, don’t leave this film alone because it’s Not Guilty.
2016, Universal, 107 minutes, PG, 13 (2015)
VIDEO: 2.40:1 (1080p) AUDIO: DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English), DTS 5.1 Surround (French), Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English) SUBTITLES: English (SDH), French, Spanish
EXTRAS: Commentary, Featurettes ACCOMPLICES: IMDB