There are many films out there that are created with good intentions but ultimately result in bad films. Suffragette, the new film about the women’s rights movement in Great Britain, is certainly one of those. The film was made to stress how important these women were to world history and to show that many of the themes brought up in the film are still relevant today. Unfortunately, these good intentions do not forgive the film for being terribly directed and for fizzling out in the second half of the film. Suffragette is just a poorly executed film that does not do justice to its source material.
Suffragette follows Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan), a young laundry worker, as she is slowly convinced to join the Suffragette movement. As she becomes more convinced by the cause, she comes across major events and major figures of the movement. The film begins in strong fashion as the film does a great job of setting up the plot and introducing us to some interesting characters. However, as the film goes on we begin to realize that director Sarah Gavron does not have as much of a grip on the film as we once thought. The film starts to feel like a bunch of events rather than one cohesive film, and Gavron’s use of shaky cam is a complete misjudgment of what this film is. Shaky cam works well in thrillers and action films, but in this film it just feels like an odd and glaring intrusion.
Fortunately this film has a strong cast to make this film at least watchable. Carey Mulligan has had a massive year between this film and her work in Far From the Madding Crowd (while also finding time to work on Broadway), and with this film she once again proves she is one of the best working actresses out there. Her combination of strength and fragility brings so many dimensions to her character. Helena Bonham Carter and (especially) Brendan Gleeson also do great work in supporting roles. It is a tad unfortunate, though, that Romola Garai has very little to do here as a minister’s wife. Garai was fantastic in The Hour (which was written by the same woman who wrote this film, Abi Morgan), and this seemed like it would be the last chance for this gifted actress to breakout into the mainstream. Alas it appears that will not happen. It was also a disappointment to see Ben Whishaw completely miscast as an abusive husband. It was embarrassing to see him in a role that he could clearly not handle.
Suffragette does not live up to the events it sets out to portray.