Deserving of a film, the suffragette story is one that will resonate forever. Historically, it was a movement that seemingly affected all women, from the poorest of the poor to the very privileged of society. Given this reach however, its a shame therefore that Suffragette only dares tell the story of one and not the many.
Suffragette follows Maud Watts (Carey Muligan) – the working class wife and mother of one, during a tiny snapshot of the early 20th century movement. Our journey begins at Maud’s introduction to the cause and holds our hand as we hear the story of one womens experience fighting for her rights.
Directed by relative newcomer Sarah Gavron, its simplistic and often gritty direction help to paint a portrait of 1920’s Britain. A washed out pallet help to bring the streets of London to life in quite a beautiful way. Aside from the looks however, the film itself is marred with issues. Much like its reliance on historical fact, the film itself doesn’t give us much that we already didn’t know. It’s not, however, the content itself that forces this to the surface, but rather the way its been approached. With an interesting blend of genres, Suffragette could have looked and felt unique, but instead its simplistic style suppresses its increasing tone of righteousness and we are left feeling like some bits could have been told a little better. Fortunately, its not the detriment of the story itself, but rather the possibility of what it could have been.
As stories go, it’s nice to see one of the most interesting parts of British history told from a different persepcitve. Taken as no less than a ‘snapshot’ in time, we are treated to a gentle running commentary of the Suffragette movement without elevating the central character to an inevitable martyrdom. This advantage however, does unfortunately lead to its biggest disappointment – nothing really happens to our main protagonist. For what could easily be seen as an extension to its ill-achieved directorial potential, Suffragette gives us a glimpse of only one person’s experience when it was really the fight of many and not the fight of one. Its this alone that may actively wain an interest as incredible characters are introduced and then quickly disappear before you even get a chance to see how they fit in to the big picture.
Carey Mulligan gives a good performace as Maude, but at times it does feel like she hasnt really been pushed to the level we know she is good at. Her interaction with her on screen son is particularly poignant as events unfold, but when fighting, her performance falls a little flat and as a result becomes a little boring. Although a little dissapointing at parts, the ever excellent Brendan Gleeson, Helena Bonham Carter and Ben Whishaw help to maintain at least some momentum whenever Mulligan slows it down. Needless to say, Merryl Streeps 45 second appearence is a welcome face but unfortunately only opens up more script potential that wasnt fully capitalized on.
Overall, Suffragette is a worthwhile story that dares to tell the story of womens rights in early 20th Century Britain. With good performances on the whole, its a distinct lack of experienced direction and undiscovered potential that holds this back from being an Oscar worthy depiction of true life stife. 3.5 out of 5 stars