Thursday, 26 January 2012

Made in Dagenham

I’d wanted to go and see this film when it was on at the cinema but was unable to persuade my girlfriend to join me. I found this disappointing as at its core, this is a film about feminism. The story of female workers at a Ford Motors plant in Dagenham, Essex is based on real events from 1968 when a dispute with management with regards to a change of being classed as unskilled from semi-skilled labour provoked a series of events that ended up with the women demanding equal pay. This in turn helped lead to the Equal Pay Act 1970.

The film follows a young Dagenham employee played wonderfully by Sally Hawkins who becomes the unofficial spokesperson for her fellow employees. Hawkins as so often is the case comes across to the audience as a quiet, likable girl next door in the first act but as the film progresses unleashes a tirade of seemingly off the cuff speeches to various people and organisations about the women’s plight and eventually gains the attention of Secretary of State for employment Barbara Castle, played here by Miranda Richardson.

I felt that the film was a well told portrayal of life for a working class family in the late 1960s and the fight for civil rights. It is clear that the women’s fight is not an easy one and that the men behind them while mostly supportive, wavered from time to time.

I remember on the films release hearing an interview with producer Stephen Woolley who was outraged at the films 15 Certificate due to the use of the word ‘fuck’. Having now watched the film I can understand totally why he felt aggrieved and despite I think two or maybe three uses of the word would definitely encourage any young person to watch it. If I ever have children it will certainly be amongst the pile of films I will be showing them.

I think it is important the films like Made in Dagenham are seen by a large young audience at a time where female role models include The Only Way is Essex ‘stars’ and Jordan/Katie Price. I’d rather young girls were influenced by and inspired by the Essex girls of Made in Dagenham than by the Essex girls they see on TV in 2012.   

Barbara Castle meets with the strikers. But only the pretty ones...

If I was to have one criticism of the film it would be that in the important negotiation scene with Miranda Richardson, only the good looking girls were involved, once outside, the 'larger' ladies appeared from nowhere and joined in with the celebrations. I thought for a film with a strong feminist tone it was strange that of the 180-something strikers, only the good looking ones were involved in such a pivotal scene.   


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