In ‘Suffragette,’ women battle to be heard, entitled

By Bob Bloom

When we think of the suffragette movement — whether it is in the U.S. or elsewhere — it’s recalling old black-and-white photos or grainy newsreel footage of women peacefully marching to demand the right to vote.

In 1912, women in England — after years of their earnest pleas being ignored — took a more militant approach.

And that is the focus of “Suffragette,” a political drama in which some women, tired of asking civilly for equal rights, began a campaign of civil disobedience and targeted destruction to bring attention to their cause.

Carey Mulligan stars as Maud, a wife and mother who works long hours in a laundry factory.

She accidentally stumbles into the work of the movement while attempting to deliver a package.

At first refusing to join her sisters, she slowly and reluctantly becomes involved, as she begins to notice the injustices around her that women are enduring.

As directed by Sarah Gavron, “Suffragette” shows how the condescension and obstinacy of men in power force these determined and frustrated women to extremes so that their demands are taken seriously.

Police are sanctioned to use brutal tactics to try quelling the rising tide of defiance.

Government officials consider these radical females such a threat that they establish a special police unit to spy on them and keep track of their movements.

Brendan Gleeson plays the by-the-book detective whose efforts to thwart the movement are met with more resistance.

He tries breaking the will of the women, at one point telling Maud that, “You’re nothing in the world,” as he castigates and bullies her in an attempt to get her in line.

Mulligan portrays Maud as a simple, working-class woman whose son and husband are, at the outset, her main focus.

Her performance is quiet and lacks flamboyance, which perfectly suits her character.

Smartly, even as she becomes more involved in the movement, she remains a foot soldier, and Gavron and screenwriter Abi Morgan, wisely do not follow a traditional cinematic path by elevating her to a leadership position.

Maud is the everywoman who saw obtaining the vote as a path to improve her gender’s standing in society and gain equality through enfranchisement.

“Suffragette’s” main obstacle is its portrayal of the men in power. They are almost stock villains, one-dimensional cardboard caricatures who are so threatened by the women’s movement that they resort to the basest tactics to halt the growing unrest and protests.

Recognizing that one or two of them had some humanity or common sense would have improved the film so it was more than a simplistic war of the sexes.

Though “Suffragette” lacks complexity, it remains a powerful and inspirational period piece that mixes fact and fiction to salute women who sacrificed their families, well-being and even their lives for a cause in which they believed.

Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.

SUFFRAGETTE
3 stars out of 4
(PG-13), intense violence, disturbing sequences, sexual situations, nudity, language

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