‘Suffragette’ is a film that tries ever so gingerly to attempt to inform and educate viewers on a time and period of history that has been somewhat ignored by the medium.
A film about the early feminist suffrage movement in Britain would be a feat to any decent filmmaker. Writer Abi Morgan (‘The Iron Lady’, ‘The Invisible Woman’) brings us into the year 1912 plainly and simply, showing us our protagonist Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) not as a suffragette, but as a simple working-class wife sweating away to her duties in a laundry factory.
Maud’s domestic bliss is established early on with the affections for her young son and dutiful husband (the latter played by Ben Whishaw). Protagonist Maud initially avoids the suffrage movement, not wanting to disrupt her domestic and work life. After viewing first hand the accounts suffragettes being abused, Maud gets swept into the movement realising she is left very little choice from which side to take.
Cinematographer Edu Grau (‘A Single Man’, ‘The Awakening’) chose to shoot all of the daytime scenes on 16mm film, and that’s all for the better, serving the story well due to the sunlight in frame. Also, shooting on film keeps things more aesthetically-pleasing to the eyes, contrasted with almost everything thing else these days of which is shot digitally. Only the night scenes were shot digitally as to take advantage of the light sensitivity of the sensor and to abate the difficulties of shooting and lighting for film at night.
Even with a cameo from dame Meryl Streep, the film still seems to struggle as a whole. The music is off-putting and too obvious at times, busy dictating to us above all else. I understand the embracement of new technologies, but why does one resort to shaky hand-held camera work when it does not suit the emotiveness of the scene or shot?
I had very little preconceived ideas about this film going into it, as is my intention with any piece of art. Considering the source material is taken from factual events, perhaps my expectations were raised. Given said material and the lack of media made about it in this generation, I always wonder what a more auteured artist could have done with the material. Gavin Raye