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Sunday, 17 October 2010

Film - Made in Dagenham - directed by Nigel Cole

Star rating 9/10

Made in Dagenham is what you call a ‘feelgood movie’ – but the difference between it and the other films usually put in this genre is that is really does make you feel good, whilst telling an important story in our country’s economic and political history, and a vital one for the position of its women.

This is the true story of the 1968 strike by women machinists at Ford’s Dagenham plant, only 187 in number, and not at all happy with the fact that their jobs have been downgraded to unskilled status, alongside the cramped, hot, and leaky roofed conditions they have to endure. It does not claim to be a wholly accurate account of every detail of the dispute - that would not make a great feature film. Instead, the story of the women’s fight, initially for the reinstatement of their previous status, then for equal pay for all women doing the same job as men, uses an amalgam of the real women involved to tell their story through some great fictional characters.

Chief of these is their reluctant leader Rita O’Grady, who at the start of the film does not have enough confidence to properly confront a bullying teacher over his over eager use of the cane on her son’s hands. But Rita soon finds the confidence to lead and inspire the women to an all out strike. Sally Hawkins is marvellous as Rita, who quietly puts her persuasive arguments across to successively bigger audiences, culminating in her addressing a trade union conference and winning a majority of their votes for the women’s cause.

Miranda Richardson is excellent as the feisty Barbara Castle, tackling Ford’s American bosses and her own colleagues and advisors at the same time. She wants the women to compromise more than they are prepared to do, so it is Castle who ends up graciously backing down and supporting the strike and equal pay demands through to the 1970 legislation that led to changes in policy all over the industrialised world.

The union officials are deliciously and predictably spineless and self serving, using their position to treat themselves to frequent meals in the luxury of a Bernie Inn, no less. There is a great supporting cast amongst the machinists, including wonderful performances by Geraldine James and Andrea Riseborough. And the fashions are simply fabulous. Rosamund Pike, who plays the unhappy and unfulfilled trophy wife of one of the Ford bosses is also great. And no, the tentative friendship that she strikes up with Rita probably would not have happened. But to be so picky just misses the point of this whole film.

Made in Dagenham is funny, serious, inspiring, uplifting and easy on the eye. And it has a great message – stand up for and fight for what you believe in, and for what you know to be right. Feelgood movies don’t get much better than this.

1 comment:

  1. This film itself isn't very good, but what's worse is the way its suposed political sentiment has been used as pro-UKFC propaganda: