Action / Biography / Drama / History


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Carey Mulligan as Maud Watts
Ben Whishaw as Sonny Watts
Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst
Helena Bonham Carter as Edith Ellyn
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779.67 MB
23.976 fps
1hr 46 min
P/S 6 / 20
1.62 GB
23.976 fps
1hr 46 min
P/S 4 / 25

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by RichardAlaba-CineMuse 7 / 10

Despite its limitations, this is a finely crafted British film

It can be risky critiquing a film homage to heroines of feminism, especially one with a star cast that includes Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Whishaw and a Meryl Streep cameo. Respect for the cause, however, does not guarantee respect for the film, and this one chooses a very limited lens with which to view this episode of history. It does have high production values, narrative authenticity and sensitivity for the feminist struggle in early 20th century Britain. But it gets lost in balancing the broader sweep of history that shapes gender relations and the impact of particular individuals.

The story line is uni-linear, the atmosphere dark and claustrophobic, and much of the acting is melodramatic, with long close-ups of Mulligan's finely nuanced expressions recording her progress from an abused laundry worker to what today would be called a radicalised political terrorist. The historical lens is so myopic that you could walk away believing the vote was won by a few protesting women, the bombing of some public letterboxes and a suffragette who threw herself under the King's horse. No more struggle…job done! Of course, that is not true and the struggle continues.

Despite these limitations, it's a finely crafted British film. The fictional heroine Maude Watts is an avatar for the British working class women who risked everything, including their lives, in fighting for the vote. Men of all classes are the demons of this tale, and one of its chilling insights is how the most dangerous enemies of suffragettes were husbands. Patriarchal governments left it to ordinary menfolk to sort out their unruly women in an era where wives were legally subordinate to husbands. Maude's contempt for her treatment at work and home propels her into the swirling orbit of violent protest where "war is the only language men listen to". Evicted by her husband for shaming him, she is left with nothing; by law, even her son was her husband's property. During the struggles, over one thousand British women were imprisoned and treated shamefully, a fact only acknowledged in the film's closing credits. Admittedly, historical judgement is difficult to translate into cinematic language, but many films have done it better. If you are interested in the history of feminist struggle from the viewpoint of the small people who made up the bigger story you will like this film.

Reviewed by Gizmo 1 / 10

Ideological Propaganda With Little Grounding In Reality

Another user here put it best when saying it is "a fundamentalist feminist glossing over of a nuanced historical series of events, which fails to show the real work for equal voting rights (which most people, men included, did not have at this point in history) was done by the suffragISTS (not the suffragettes), composed of men & women, who lobbied for 1 person = 1 vote...rather than the openly racist suffragettes who only wanted white, upper class women to have the vote. At this point in history, usually only white, upper class men holding large property holdings could vote (although some women holding equivalent property, for example widows running a business, with a number of employees could and DID vote.)"

The Suffragettes were (rightly) seen at the time as violent and irrational terrorists, attacking people, blowing up buildings and making plans to assassinate the Prime Minister. The historical revisionism of this film and the present day feminist narrative of history in general does a great disservice to the reality of the time. Rather than win women the vote, it's very likely the suffragettes delayed it happening, because their violent actions made it impossible for the government of the day to address the issue and not be seen to be giving in to terrorists.

At the time this film is set, the vast majority of men did not have the vote either, and it has been estimated that 9 out of 10 of the men who died in the trenches of the first world war did so without that privilege. Men as a class 'got' the vote the same year all women over 30 did: 1918. But of course, even though a matter of historical record, this is not something the film can address at all without discrediting both the suffragettes cause and its own reason for existing.

The depiction of almost all the men, too, as an inhuman, monolithic class of brutal oppressors is also mean-spirited, ahistorical and unpleasantly manipulative, and it's hard to imagine such scapegoating being considered acceptable today if it were any other group of people being vilified in this manner.

The film is very well-acted, particularly by Streep and Carey Mulligan, it's just a shame they worked so hard on such an ugly and dishonest piece of ideological propaganda.

Reviewed by Turfseer 5 / 10

Informative history of women's suffrage movement but composite character protagonist is pure agitprop

For those who are unfamiliar with the history of the women's suffrage movement in Britain, director Sarah Gavron and screenwriter Abi Morgan have reminded us that the more radical participants did not follow the non-violent civil disobedience program as promoted by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., during the 1960s Civil Rights movement here in America. Quite the contrary, the suffrage movement leader in Britain, Emmeline Parnkhurst (played by Meryl Streep in a brief cameo), called for violent protest. And as the film makes clear, the violent nature of the protests escalated from broken shop windows to bombs thrown into mailboxes, clashes with police and even the arson torching of Chancellor of the Exchequer Lloyd George's summer home.

Gavron and Morgan tell this historical story through the fictional lens of their protagonist, Maud Watts, a laundress from a working class background. I would say their character is atypical of a woman of 1912, the year in which the Suffragette narrative begins. It's a much safer bet to believe that the average woman of that time was sympathetic to the cause but disapproved of tactics involving any kinds of violent resistance.

While Maud might be atypical, Gavron and Moran argue in substance that she represents the type of radical Suffragette that actually was the catalyst in upsetting the social order, eventually leading to the vote for women. This was essentially Pankhurst's view initially too—that violence was the only language the men of the time understood. But the film's scenarists go a step further, suggesting that Maud is a symbol of victimization at the hands of a nefarious paternalistic society.

Maud is not only betrayed by the male establishment politically (note how her brave impromptu speech in front of Lloyd George falls on deaf ears), but she is subjugated by a coterie of evil sexist males at every turn. These males include her loathsome boss who apparently has been molesting his female employees for years (presumably even Maude) as well as her co-worker husband, Sonny, who locks her out of the house after she's arrested and then puts Maud's beloved son up for adoption. Then there's the matrons and prison officials who brutalize Maud and her colleagues, force feeding them against their will, not to mention the police, who club women in broad daylight, following peaceful demonstrations.

It's not that these things didn't happen, but it just seems all of them happen to Maud, making her less of a fully realized character and more fodder for agitprop. She even is part of the plot to firebomb Lloyd George's summer cottage. Fortunately there is one semi-fleshed out character that keeps things moderately interesting: the antagonist of the drama, Inspector Steed (Brendan Gleeson), who tails Maud and her confederates, taking surveillance photos with his technologically innovative, newfangled camera. Steed has the best scene with Maud during a prison interview —he informs her that the firebombing of Lloyd George's cottage almost claimed a victim—a housekeeper, who returned to the house after forgetting something and just missed being killed. Maud is nonplussed at Steed's "means to an end" diatribe and gets in her jabs in by pointing to the government's hypocrisy, who deny women their basic rights.

The weakest part of the script involves the climax. How does one tie up Maud's story? Well, just forget about her and focus on the plight of Emily Davison who became a martyr to the Suffragette cause in 1913. Ms. Davison had the unfortunate idea of making a statement at the Epsom Derby where King George V's horse was running in the annual race. In front of three separate Pathe newsreel cameras that were filming the event, she stepped under the railing and on to the racetrack while the race was in progress (amazingly, you can watch it all on Youtube!). Some believed she wanted to commit suicide but a modern day blowup of the footage reveals she was attempting to pin a banner on the horse as it raced by. Unfortunately the horse perceived Ms. Davison as an obstacle to jump over, but missed, bowling her over and crushing her skull (she died after four days in a coma).

We never do find out what happens to Maud after the tragic event at the Epsom Derby but do see actual newsreel footage of the thousands of women who attended Emily Davison's funeral—the true-life quiet dignity of her supporters outshines the perhaps misguided over aggressive militancy of a fictional Maud.

Suffragette features a number of both fictional and non-fictional supporting players that give one a flavor for whom was involved in the women's suffrage movement. Carey Mulligan does well as Maud Watts, adroitly capturing the intensity of the composite character Gavron and Morgan have served up here.

In the end the women's suffrage movement was a bit more complicated than one character's struggle against a monolithic sexist society. Notably Emmeline Pankhurst supported the British government during World War I and became a strident anti-Communist up until her death in 1928. As a basic history lesson, Suffragette manages to get a few things right historically about the women's suffrage movement, but is less convincing in its melodramatic treatment of its strident heroine.

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