The Equality Commission report was published today stating that women are still earning 16% less than men; this followed a report, published in August, that suggested, at the current rate of progress, equal pay would occur in 2067. That’s one year shy of a century after the events portrayed in this film, which precipitated the Equal Pay Act. So it’s great to see this story being told and I could even forgive the ‘artistic license’ of having the women strip to their underwear because of the heat.
Channel 4 News got involved in the marketing of this film by taking the original ringleaders of the strike to meet Theresa May, the most prominent of only four women in Cameron’s cabinet. The reporter cajoled May to say that the women were right to strike; she wouldn’t but clearly without the right to strike workers would be even more exploited than they often are.
The script does well to pack in so much into the feelgood narrative: the snobbery of the Grammar school; the transition from communal to electronic music; the rise of sexy fashion at the expense of the frump; the imprisonment of middle class women in subordinate roles. Nigel Cole’s also has the odd flourish such as the long take when the wife of a Ford boss (Rosamund Pike) is dispatched to get the cheese and biscuits, her long walk to the kitchen is shown in full.
I also liked how the unions were portrayed as patriarchal, believing that the class struggle had no room for feminists. However it was the women, with Castle’s support, who took on the unions, and multinational companies, and scored a victory (albeit one that hasn’t delivered what it promised). It shows we shouldn’t be cowed by the thought of offending ‘big business’ (memo to Vince Cable: refer News Corp’s attempt to buy the 62% of Sky it doesn’t own to OFCOM).
Miranda Richardson, as Barbara Castle, seems to have been struggling for decent roles recently; a victim of being ‘old’ and female in film industry terms? However her brief appearances in the film are electric. And the cast, all round, take their opportunities with relish, offering some great ensemble acting.
I’m too young (or is that not quite old enough?) to remember 1968 clearly, but the period detail seemed to me to be genuine; though a friend reckoned the use of ‘fuck’, that’s given this film a 15-certificate, wasn’t used so prevalently at that time. I doubt whether many youngsters will be attracted to the film, and the audience I was in made me feel youthful, but it is one that they should see, particularly females.