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Women at the front

MARIA DUARTE recommends a film on the Suffragettes’ leading role in the battle for female emanicaption

Suffragette (12A)
Directed by Sarah Gavron
4/5

IT MAY be almost 100 years since women got the vote yet this powerful drama is a shocking reminder of the horrendous sacrifices they made to achieve it and how far women still have to go in our fight for equality.

The irony is that although Suffragette, which has just opened this year’s London Film Festival, was directed (Sarah Gavron), written (Abi Morgan) and produced (Faye Ward and Alison Owen) by women, this still isn’t the norm in Hollywood, to the film industry’s disgrace.

A-list actresses — Oscar winning or not — are still being paid less than their male counterparts as Sony’s hacked emails revealed. The same is true of women in all walks of life.

Gavron’s compelling film explores the Suffragette movement in 1912 through the eyes of the fictional Maud, an ordinary young working-class woman, played admirably by Carey Mulligan.

She’s persuaded by Violet (Anne Marie Duff), a fellow worker at the Bethnal Green laundry, to join the cause and become a foot soldier.

She is further convinced by the inspirational Edith (Helena Bonham Carter), a local chemist who holds group meetings in her shop, supported and aided by her husband.

Superb performances by Suffragette’s stellar female cast shows these women as being ahead of their time as they turn from peaceful but ineffectual demonstrations to militant action — smashing shop windows, firebombing post boxes and in the case of Emily Wilding Davison, who jumped in front of the King George V’s horse at the Epsom Derby, dying for the cause.

Being the first film to be shot in the House of Commons gives added authenticity to the drama, which brutally depicts how the Suffragettes were beaten, tortured, humiliated and violently force-fed during their hunger strikes in jail by the authorities.

Mulligan’s gripping but understated performance as Maud provides the emotional core as she loses everything, including her son, for the movement.

The only missed note is Meryl Streep’s all-too-brief appearance as Emmeline Pankhurst who comes across as a mythical figurehead who’s occasionally wheeled out rather than the relentless, charismatic and inspirational Suffragette leader she was.

An intense and extraordinarily moving film, Suffragette’s end credits list the dates women got the vote across the world and it hits home how long it’s taken.

In Saudi Arabia women will be able to vote for the first time in this year’s local elections, truly shocking in this day and age.

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