It’s a great credit to director Sarah Gavron that Suffragette works as well as it does given that its certificate of classification is a mere 12A.
With a combination of violence, death, the plight of the downtrodden and at times harrowing emotional trauma, one would not be surprised to see such content given a considerably more adult classification, but for once it can confidently be assumed that in the case of Suffragette, it’s not all about a 12A, bums-on-seats and the ker-ching of the cash register, it’s a film of importance and one that really ought to be seen, by both genders and all generations.
Suffragette follows the story of Maud, who, like many women of the time, had her existence mapped out for her as a mother, dutiful housewife and additional bread winner; in Maud’s case, working in an industrial laundry for a predictably odious male boss.
Essentially, Maud, like many of her female peers, is expected to be a superwoman, juggling both hers and her family’s lives, shorn of any of the credit that might be attributed to such a role in a fair and just society.
This is the early 1900s and despite the well established order of things, there are rumblings afoot, with the suffragette movement, whilst still very cloak and dagger, gaining momentum behind the scenes and with a stubborn refusal by the top echelons to acknowledge female voting rights, it’s a movement that is having to increasingly resort to ever more dramatic means in order to be heard and more importantly, be taken seriously.
It is such politicised circles that increasingly envelop young Maud despite her understandable initial reticence to be involved.
Once on board however, with repercussions potentially severe for her and her new comrades, there is no turning back.
Carey Mulligan is excellent as young mother Maud, whilst there are strong performances from a support cast including Helena Bonham Carter as Edith Ellyn and Ben Whishaw as Sonny Watts. There’s even a brief cameo from Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst, whose address to an assembled female contingent by cover of night, implores the suffragettes to resort to ever more violent and drastic means in order to make their point.
In an ever changing world; one which has taken great strides in the area of gender equality over the last few decades, it does however remain a world, to a large extent, still dominated by a frequently destructive male psyche.
There are roles to fulfil in life, some arguably suited to specific sexes better than others. With acknowledgment of this fact and respect attributed accordingly, with an equal say for all in how such roles are to be fulfilled and managed, a better balanced and contented society can surely flourish?
Suffragette is a compelling and powerful piece that addresses the very roots of the issue and acts as a both a reminder and a template for the future, for all of us.