Made in Dagenham (2011)

Directed by Nigel Cole
Written by William Ivory

I quickly began to find the irony of the situation that was my viewing of this British film. You see, yesterday was the day that the women’s US soccer team came from behind in the final minutes to beat Brazil in the quarterfinal of the World Cup in Germany. It was a magical game and one that, sadly, I was not able to see past about the 60′, otherwise known as I missed all the good parts at the end. But I bring this up because leading up to this game, ESPN’s program Sportscenter had been talking about the 1999 US women’s team that seemed destined to win the World Cup, which they did. It was a magical run and Robin Roberts, who broadcasted the 1999 team, mentioned the fact that without Title IX, it probably could have never been possible. So how perfect that this movie would fall into my lap that night, for me to watch, enjoy, and see the power that is women.

The film is based in the real strike by the women of the Ford motor plant in Dagenham, England back in 1968. It was a big moment in the fight for women’s rights in England at the time. The end result was actually the Equal Pay Act of 1970. It was not the first of its kind in the world, the US had a similar act in 1963, but it was extremely important for most other European countries and the overall freedom of women. The film focuses on this group of women and their default leader, Rita (Sally Hawkins), who sort of just falls into the leadership position, but embraces it. Her colleagues, who include their boss, a male (Bob Hoskins), supported her when none of the male leading class, and in fact not even the male workers at the factory, would not.

The history of this world is filled with epic stories that defy logic and are chock full of emotion and drama. It is also filled with stories that, while looking back at them years later with the kind of hindsight that is not possible at the time, seem ridiculous to think of the injustices being brought down on undeserving people. Slavery seems strange to people today that it ever existed, and especially not so long ago, just as the Holocaust seems unfathomable. Well, sexual equality is also one of those things, which is what makes this film as interesting as it is. There is still some discrimination today, and in fact we have a long way to go in many areas, but how far we have already come is worth noting and this film does so.

That being said, the film is not all that compelling past the natural drama and emotion of such a story. The film comes across as too broad, and I think it probably has something to do with it being written and directed by males. The female touch, the touch of one who understand the complete significance and the feeling of such an important tale would have made for a much more subtle, intricate and intimate film than what resulted. Instead we are treated to fleeting moments of who these women truly are. There is minimal character development, which makes this specific tale of female strength less personal than it could have been, and should have been. The gravitas of the situation is depended upon to carry the entire story with little background or context to be able to truly care about what is happening apart from it being an historic event.

Sally Hawkins is fine as Rita, as is the rest of her supporting cast, but it really is disappointing to see the lack of compelling drama and emotion from such a momentous, historic story. But because of the general context of my viewing experience, and the fact that I graduated with a history degree, made me appreciate the film on levels past that of just a film buff. As a film it is merely average at best, but it does capture the spirit of the fight against injustice and for that reason I think it is worth seeing. But if you are looking for a great movie, then I suggest you look elsewhere because Made in Dagenham is not that.

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