HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:79
It’s very easy to take for granted the rights and privileges that we have today in modern society. We can quibble and complain about how unfair things are for us, and debate the details of feminism and social rights till our face is blue, but we have to admit that in the Western civilized world we live in an era of unprecedented freedom. All it takes is to look back a couple decades, let alone an entire century to see that things have changed drastically for the modern man (and in this case woman). Today we take it as common practice that women and men can vote with equal ease, but not that long ago it wasn’t a common thing. My childhood association with the Suffragette movement was Mrs. Banks in “Mary Poppins”, singing at the top of her lungs and driving Mr. Banks batty with her joyful cries of “votes for women!” accompanied with jokes about someone being hauled off in irons. The fact of the matter is that those jokes and soft Disney veneer was used to keep children from being inundated with the incredibly bleak situation that was one of the world’s most important movements.
The year is 1912, and the place is London. While we have the modern automobile and modern paving, along with a solid system of parliamentary government, England is not exactly on the forefront of allowing women equal voting rights as men. Back then it was commonly thought that a woman didn’t have the necessary faculties of logic and reason as men did, and thus should not be allowed to vote and make policy changes due to that inferiority. However, not all men felt that way, and women most CERTAINLY did not. Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) is one of those dissatisfied women, working a menial job and not given the same rights that her male counterparts are enjoying. She has no intent on being one of the suffragette women who throw bricks through establishment windows and protest with the mysterious Mrs. Pankhurst (Meryl Streep), but rather is beaten down by the constant abuse heaped on her by her boss and the knowledge that there’s really nothing she can do.
That all changes one day when she goes to a political hearing and gives her testimony under the guise that her testimony will be considered for changing British law to include women in the voting pool. When the ruling comes out negative the women are furious and feel lied to, which leads to a riot that gets Maud tossed in jail with the rest of the more militant suffragettes. Her husband (played by Ben Wishaw whom you may recognize as “Q” in the new 007 films with Daniel Craig) is furious and embarrassed by her getting arrested and even associating with the suffragettes, but Maud has had a taste of hope and that is a dangerous thing for someone who has lived without it for so long. Going to another rally which hosts the highly sought after Mrs. Pankhurst, which is quickly broken up by Scotland Yard and police inspector Steed (Brendan Gleeson), Maud is once more detained by the authorities and sent home to face her furious husband once more. Throwing her out, husband Sonny turns his back his wife, leaving Maud to fend for herself. With her back up against a wall the opposition has made a fatal flaw. They have taken everything that Maud had to lose away from the poor women, which now leaves her with nothing left to lose. A position that can make a small threat into something so much more.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=64418[/img]Teaming up with the Suffragettes full time, Maud and her friend Violet (Anne-Marie Duff) along with suffragette spokeswoman Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter) wage full out war on the establishment, bringing as much attention to the movement as they can in a blatant effort to back the British government into a corner. As their attacks grow more and more aggressive, the women are seeing little to no results as the press is silenced and the vast majority of people aren’t even hearing about the movement. This leads up to one of the most famous incidents in the British Suffragette movement. An act that may not instantly bring everyone to acquiescence, but one that brought the entire world’s eyes onto the movement in one fell swoop.
“Suffragette” is less about any singular action, or the actual movement ITSELF. The posturing, the strategy or the actual events that led up to the eventual giving of the rights, but instead it takes on the point of view of a single woman and her struggle to find hope. Maud is not a suffragette at first, and has no intentions of joining the movement despite her obvious sympathies. She just wants to get along with her day without getting hurt any more than she has to. She has a seemingly loving husband who wants her to be safe, and a young child. However when she is tossed in jail against her will for doing almost nothing, she finds out the true colors of those around her and is soon tossed out in the cold. With this safety net gone, she goes from simple house wife with no political bents to an integral arm of the suffragette movement.
While the film is engaging and powerful much of the time, it also struggles a bit by adding in a bit too much cliché and stereotypes into the equation. There’s several times throughout the film where Maud is given the standard pep talk by those higher up in the movement, and it pretty much boils down to “never give up the fight, never surrender”. I would have liked something a bit more complex and intimate instead of just basic party lines that can be cut and pasted into any situation. Carey Mulligan was fantastic as the beaten down and abused Maud, while Helena Bonham Carter does an amazing job at being rather low key and simple instead of her normal over the top self. While Meryl Streep’s face is plastered all over the cover and poster art, she really only makes about 5 minutes of screen time during the whole movie as the enigmatic and awe inspiring Emeline Pankhurst. Her role is vital for the events to take place, but her involvement in the movie is a bit overstated.
Rated PG-13 for some intense violence, thematic elements, brief strong language and partial nudity
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=64426[/img]The 2.40:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray is intentionally bleak and dreary looking, with a blue/gray color grading system that is rather desaturated of bright colors in an effort to mirror the bleak outlook the women share in the film. The colors tend to all be shades of blue, white and earthy browns, contributing to the already dull and flat looking picture that we see before us. I can’t blame the transfer at all as the clarity is sharp and the fine detail magnificent. The film was given a heavy and stylistic grading that is representative of 1912 England and one that is free of any major artifacting or flaws in the encode. Blacks are deep and inky, with no signs of crush or digital anomalies to mar the blackness. It’s a wonderful encode, but just not a pretty looking picture.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=64434[/img]As with most dramas that don’t contain a wild amount of action, “Suffragette” carries a stable 5.1 track that is naturally rather front loaded. The hustle and bustle of London streets is mainly contained in the front three speakers, where the dialog is well centered and crisp as could be. Vocals never suffer and the dynamic range is never wide enough to cause someone to raise and lower the volume during the film’s run time. Ambient noises like the race track at the end of the film, or the creaking of the prison doors come through adequately in the surround channels, and there is even some solid LFE for same said doors and same said race scene to fill out the bottom end a bit. It’s a good track, just one that doesn’t require a whole lot of effort to fulfill its duties.
• Inside "Suffragette"
• Suffragette: Looking Back, Looking Forward
• Making the VFX for "Suffragette"
• Feature Commentary with Director Sarah Gavron and Screenwriter Abi Morgan
“Suffragette” is a very nice change of pace for Hollywood, as it tackles an important subject without being overly preachy and…well…. “Hollywoodish” if you know what I mean. The lack of being a high budget blockbuster helped in that regards, and allowed the film makers to go straight for the jugular without having to have a lot of studio interference or pump up as many jingoistic talking points as they could. The end result is a highly satisfying drama that deals purposefully and simply with a subject matter that was one of the largest turning points of the 20th century in terms of civil rights next to the race issue that was dealt with during the mid 1900’s in the U.S.. Recommended.
Starring: Helena Bonham Carter, Carey Mulligan, Anne-Maria Duff
Directed by: Sarah Gavron
Written by: Abi Morgan
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Main Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French DTS 5.1
Runtime: 107 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: January 2nd, 2016
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