by NEVIL GIBSON
The best based-on-fact historical recreations are those that reveal new insights into episodes that are framed with faded notions of the past. The beginnings of the British struggle for women’s emancipation — and in particular for the right to vote — are recreated with appropriate gravitas in Suffragette (Transmission).
A brief reference to New Zealand’s granting of universal suffrage years earlier sets the tone for a one-sided story that never takes itself less than seriously.
The muted and bleak colours of working class London, where several of the heroines slave in a laundry, seldom become brighter as the campaign gains momentum.
As is normal in revolutionary movements, conflict emerges between the moderates, who favour gradualism and moderation in advancing political goals, and those who have more radical inclinations.
The suffragettes, inspired by upper class Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep in little more than a cameo role), opt for the latter.
This includes blowing up post boxes, smashing windows, and a house burning. In response, police throw the women into jail and force feed those on hunger strikes.
The central character, Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan), leans towards the radicals, along with Edith Ellyn (Helen Bonham Carter), based on real-life Edith Garrud.
The culmination, not to give anything away, occurs with a martyrdom at the Epsom Derby, where tragedy turns into triumph.
Because the screenplay, by Abi Morgan, focuses on a few characters, the wider context of the suffragette movement is ignored. Nevertheless, this is testament to a cause that had only one predictable outcome.
Rating: Mature audiences (violence and offensive language); 106 minutes.
Coming attractions • This is the final film column for this year. It has not been possible to view some of new attractions over the holiday period. These include Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which is expected to be the biggest box office attraction since Avatar. This is also the pre-Oscar period, when many high-profile features are screened. Based on advance publicity, these could include Carol, which won the New York Film Critics Circle award; The Big Short, a financial thriller; Spotlight, which is of particular interest to Catholics; Joy, a business biopic based on the life of Joy Mangano; and The Revenant, a survival tale set in the 19th century American wilderness. Among those of interest to families are Pixar’s The Lost Dinosaur, Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie, and Oddball, from Australia about a dog. These will be reviewed when publication of NZ Catholic resumes in January.
by NEVIL GIBSON