Starring: Carey Mulligan, Anne-Marie Duff, Helena Bonham Carter, Grace Stottor, Ben Whishaw, Adam Michael Dodd, Brendan Gleeson, Meryl Streep
Directed By: Sarah Gavron
Written By: Abi Morgan
Rating: PG-13 (US)
Running Time: 1 hr 46 min
Suffragette, documents the turn of the 20th century women’s rights movement through the experiences of their newest member, Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan), a 24-year-old laundress. And covers her struggles as she battles politicians, police and even her own husband to gain the right to vote. Suffragette is an important story, and still relevant today – so it’s a shame that this ended up being one of the most frustrating movie going experiences I’ve had this year.
Picture if you will, a pyramid. Kinda like the old food chart, but instead we’re going to fill out the different levels with everyone involved in the production of this film. At the bottom, we’d put most of the crew – set decorators, caterers, extras and personal assistants etc. Above them, we’d likely find camera and sound people, who would take their directions from the folks above them in charge of sound mixing and photography. As we get closer to the top of the pyramid, we’d find the writer Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady), the actors Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter, and the producers of the film. At the top in charge of the creative direction of this project, is the director, Sarah Gavron.
Everyone below Sarah Gavron brought their A-game to this film. Everything from costumes to production design, to music and performances – were all superb. This is a powerful important story, with all the best people doing great work. The reason this movie became a frustrating mess however, is down the Sarah Gavron’s awful direction.
Sarah Gavron wants us to experience the sights and sounds of the period, but at the expense of telling a great story. Wanting us at every turn to participate in this drama, rather than let us appreciate all the fine work done by the folks lower than her on the film maker’s pyramid. Putting us too close to the action and characters with her incessant use of hand-held camera footage, making all the action in this film completely incoherent. At every turn, moments of real power and drama are ruined by her need to cut away from a strong performance, to an unneeded reaction shot or intricate little detail to once again hammer home the time and place the story is set in. Which, as I said, was very frustrating, because this film could have been something incredible if Sarah Gavron had taken a more hands-off approach to this project, and put story ahead of technique.
If you’re like me, and you can’t stand hand-held camera work, then stay clear of this film. Suffragette is rated PG-13 for some moments of violence, language and a single brief moment of nudity.
With all the held-held camera nonsense, this is a difficult film to watch in the theater. A HD rental at home on your TV, laptop or tablet would be a better format choice.
Best Moment: << spoiler >>
Maud comes home to find out her husband, Sonny (Ben Whishaw) has given up their son for adoption. The scene with her boy as he’s taken away was very moving.