Re:View ‘Made In Dagenham’
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The subject seems almost wilfully designed to put audiences off; the story of a British car factory strike in the sixties. Worse, it’s made by the director of ‘Calendar Girls’, probably my least favourite film ever. A pleasure and a surprise to report, then, that ‘Made In Dagenham’ is a winning, smart comedy-drama with something real to say for itself.
In 1968, 187 women car workers came out on strike for equal pay at Ford’s Dagenham car plant. The four leading women faced the wrath not just of management but of their own male-dominated union. The strike spread, with Barbara Castle (a terrific turn by Miranda Richardson) attempting to appease both bullying Ford and PM Harold Wilson (John Sessions). Leading the women, nervy, shy Rita (Sally Hawkins, channeling Rita Tushingham) and end-of-tether Connie (Geraldine James) suddenly find themselves playing with – and against – the big boys and doing something that would eventually change the world.
Rosamunde Pike (in a small but memorable role) and shop steward Bob Hoskins are also standouts in a great ensemble cast. The film is a crowd-pleaser, meaning that it’s peppered with pop songs and shots of jolly female solidarity, but it also manages to invoke the beery, smoky all-male ghastliness of the period. Small quibbles; a stretched budget results in a slightly rushed finale, and a few out-of-period anomalies, but as a friend of mine said when she left, ‘I can’t imagine any woman not enjoying this.’
This was the world premiere, and before the film started, producer Elizabeth Karlson reminded the audience of 3 screenwriting rules.
1. Are there more than two women in the film?
2. Do they talk to each other?
3. Do they talk about something more than men?
Job done, clearly.