Suffragette documents the early suffragette movement in the UK. It primarily focuses on Maud Watts as her life unravels in the pursuit of justice.
The film follows Maud Watts as she finds herself swept in the quickly militarizing suffragette movement in the UK. She begins as a humble wife who works in a factory along with her husband to provide for their son. Dealing with sexual harassment from her boss, who also assaults many other women in the factory, she finds herself drawn to her fellow workers who meet to discuss women’s empowerment and the growing suffragette movement. At this time women were beaten and jailed for demonstrating for the right to vote and as Maud grows more and more active her personal life at home unwinds.
A beautiful tale, the story highlights a point of foreign history unbeknownst to a lot of modern Americans. As American women secured suffrage in 1920, foot soldiers in the UK fought to join this monumental movement until they eventually succeed in 1928. This is no happy tale, however as it shows what these women endured and sacrificed for their fellow women, even the one’s who did not fight alongside them.
The film combines both fictional people (Maud Watts) with real women who are well known in the early stages of feminist protest, including Emmeline Pankhurst and Emily Davidson. Maud slowly becomes enamored with the movement, eventually radicalizing, and seeing how far some suffragettes were willing to go for the cause.
The film itself is beautiful, but it takes a long time to catch its bearings. It has an idea of what it wants to be, but it takes to long to establish its premise and then rapidly catches up with its own plot, with a lot of major plot points happening in the second half.
Meryl Streep also appears on a lot of the promotional material for the film, yet only has about five minutes of screen time. Still, those five minutes contain one of the most beautiful speeches in recent film and allows them to reference one of the most publicized suffragettes of the period, Emmeline Pankhurst. The only other major downside is the use of handheld camera in a majority of the film. It makes some scenes seem overly shaky and unclear, and it is a huge detriment to important moments. It also gives the film almost a guerilla kind of feel, which does add to the thematic mood of the story, but overall it comes off as distracting.
Still, we women today are in a stage of unrest. Women around the world have showed they continue to carry the torch of protest that was laid out before us by inspirational early feminist fighters of the past. We must also acknowledge, as all women, that we have the rights that we have because of people who sacrificed everything they loved and suffered tremendously in order to show that they deserve the same treatment as any man. It is a shocking look at the strong women, the fighting women, and the jailed women, who allowed us to be the free women we are today. Is the fight over? Hell no! But look at how far we’ve come.
Amy’s Recommendation: 9/10
Badass Suffragette Line[s]: (This one gets more than one because I simply couldn’t choose)
“For fifty years, we have laboured peacefully to secure the vote for women. We’ve been ridiculed, battered and ignored. Now we have realised that deeds and sacrifice must be the order of the day. We are fighting for a time in which every little girl born into the world will have an equal chance with her brothers. Never underestimate the power we women have to define our own destinies. We do not want to be law breakers. We want to be law makers. Be militant, each of you in your own way. Those of you who can break windows, break them. Those who can further attack the sacred idle of property, do so! We have been left with no alternative, but to defy this government! If we must go to prison to obtain the vote, let it be the windows of government, not the bodies of women, that shall be broken! I incite this meeting and all the women in Britain to rebellion! I would rather be a rebel than a slave!”
“You want me to respect the law? Then make the law respectable”
“We break windows, we burn things. Cause war’s the only language men listen to!”
Unfortunately this film is only on HBO, but if you have the subscription I highly recommend it. I had to include it on my list simply because real badass women deserve as much of a spotlight, if not more than fictional ones.