I have ambivalent felings about the 2015 British historical drama, Suffragette, directed by Sarah Gavron. That surprised me. I expected to love it. I also can’t put my finger exactly on why I didn’t love it unconditionally. I think it may have something to do with the stodgy, politically correct character of Maud Watts, played by Carey Mulligan. I never fully bought into her as a real woman. There were too few of the ambivalences I now own up to feeling. Being a suffragette in the early 20th century took incredible courage and the women were unlikely to have been drawn from the ranks of the wish-washy (and that has nothing to do with the laundry in which our heroine worked).
Interestingly, this movie about the Women’s Suffrage before World War I is the first film ever to be shot (in parts) on location in the British Houses of Parliament. In a sense that reaffirms the whole politically correct claptrap which made me despise the movie characters as much as I would probably have admired (even though I may simultaneously have disliked) the originals. One is struck by the sincere effort, but never touched by their human frailties and personal dilemmas. Its lack of sentimentality is a weakness, not a strength. It just feels so earnest and so tedious. I’m blaming the storyline rather than the acting or the original history (which I expected to thrill me, agitate, annoy, anger and thrill me again). Instead I sat passively through it, almost unmoved, although interested and somewhat in awe of what these women did and achieved.
Suffragette stars Carey Mulligan as Maud Watts, and Helena Bonham Carter, the great-granddaughter of H H Asquith, the then Prime Minister of the UK, and an opponent of the suffrage movement, and Natalie Press as Emily Davison, with Anne-Marie Duff as Violet Miller. Meryl Streep plays Emmeline Pankhurst, although she is on screen for about two minutes, so don’t get too excited by that. The movie is Oscar bait. I hope one or more of the actresses get nominated, but I will be surprised if the movie gets nominated for and particularly if the movie wins the best movie of the year.
The viewer must, of course, make up his or her own mind. For me Suffragette gets only a very wishy-washy (again, no pun on laundry) 6/10.