Sometimes a film has such a serious and important story to tell that it can try a little too hard. The ambition behind Suffragette is commendable and it is a good film but I couldn’t help feel that it was over-selling the situation while at the same time missing elements of the true story that are important as well.
The decision to focus on the “everyday” woman, Maud Watts, a laundry worker played by Carey Mulligan, is a very good one. It means we get the story told through innocent, uninitiated eyes and the film uses this as a device to introduce the struggle and life that the woman had to lead and also the extreme means that they went to so they could get the vote. Mulligan carries this role effortlessly and she is stretched through many different emotions and situations. This is my issue with the film though.
Mulligan’s Watts is supposed to be an “ordinary” woman but in trying to get the character to become militant, the film decides to pull her life through many different extremes. It becomes dramatic moment piled upon dramatic moment and begins to stretch credibility for the one character. Considering the great cast accompanying Mulligan in this film, you feel like some of the dramatic burden could have been shared.
Helena Bonham Carter plays Edith Ellyn and is the mentor Mulligan needs. This feels like a wasted character and although an illness story is hinted at, with some development, you feel like this fictional character could have been pushed further. On the other end of this spectrum is the fantastic Anne-Marie Duff who plays Watt’s doorway into the Suffragette movement; Violet Miller. Duff carries the first part of the movie and demonstrates how the movie should be focused, on various Suffragette’s rather than forcing one character through many key events from history.
It is this point which jarred with me the most. Mulligan’s everyday Suffragette found herself in some of the biggest points in the movement. The key example is the events at The Derby. As you watch this unfold, you can’t help thinking that there is a better story to be told here; the one of Emily Wilding Davison.
Of course the movie isn’t just about the events Mulligan is involved in but also the ones that don’t get mentioned. Just from a passing interest in the time period, The First World War plays such a pinnacle part in the actual suffragette story and although you can’t cover everything, you can’t help but feel some parts of The Suffragette story have been glossed over.
For starters, the film takes the slightly easy but shallow route of making every major male character a villain. Of course this is a story about woman and their struggle for the vote but it doesn’t help when you create a situation when every man is against the cause.
There is also another wasted opportunity with the inclusion and glorified cameo of Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst. Considering how much press the actress has done for the film, she is hardly in it! As a surprise cameo and mystery piece of casting, you feel the role would have much more impact and sold the mystery, iconic status of the character.
These are all minor gripes that took away from the overall effect of the film but didn’t mean it was ruined. Suffragette is still a very good film and tells the story of the British woman’s struggle for the vote very well. I just feel it could have been much better.
Overall, The Suffragette is a very important film and the story is overdue to be told. Carey Mulligan is great as the central character and carries the film very well. Unfortunately, the movie should be better and tries too hard to force the struggle across, pushing so much on Mulligan’s character that it begins to stretch credibility.
Rating – 3
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)