Suffragette

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Anne-Marie Duff, Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson, Romola Garai, Meryl Streep
Directed By: Sarah Gavron

I wanted to like it. I really did. For women fighting still for fundamental rights, this is not the film you were looking for. Sorry. Suffragette doesn’t really work on any level, except perhaps to show us that Carey Mulligan is a terrific actress, even when the film fails her.

Suffragette follows the British movement of women fighting for their right to vote. Maude (Mulligan) is the main character we follow. She’s “not a suffragette”, but as you probably guessed she’s about to be one. Yes, terrible things happen to the women in the film. They’re beaten, jailed, force fed. They lose husbands, children, it’s all awful. And it all really happened. But, aside from Maude, I didn’t really know enough about any of the other characters to care about them. The movie spent so much time focusing on Mulligan’s character, that when it came time to sacrifice Emily Wilding Davidson (who is actually credited as being a catalyst for the movement) I didn’t care about her. She was a random face sacrificing herself for the cause. It could have had a deeper impact, if Emily’s character had half the screentime that Anne-Marie Duff’s Violet had. And, those of you hoping Meryl Streep saves the day, she won’t. She’s in the film for maybe a minute, and while she does impact in the way Streep always does, the film is already too soft without her. More Streep might have helped, but if her character lacked in development the same way the rest of the supporting cast did, I’m not sure it would have helped.

Mulligan is fantastic, and noticeably so since the film seems to be falling apart around her. Whishaw is not believable as an angry person, or a “bad husband”. Gleeson has also had showier roles before. It’s amazing he’s gotten recognition for his work here, because he does nothing really for the film or the story. His character is so flat, it’s a tragedy he was cast in the role. He’s so much better than that. Both Duff and Carter lacked in character development, but did the best they could with what they were given.

Suffragette isn’t even a 2 hour movie, but it felt long and dragged a lot. Lots of talk, lots of walking, lots of women looking angry and fighting, but not a lot of story or characters. There have been other films about similar topics that have succeeded. It is possible to make your audience understand your plight, and also make a good movie with compelling characters. There was also way too much darkness. It was difficult to see what was going on in some scenes, as the director opted for natural light in almost pitch black dark scenes.

This is a film that is destined to be forgotten at the Oscars. The only hope here is (possibly) Costume Design or Carey Mulligan. I can’t see this film being recognized for anything else. There are much better films this year that are far more deserving of praise. It’s a shame, because I had really wanted to see this, and I went in thinking I was going to love it. I was let down on so many levels.

FINAL GRADE: C

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