Friday, November 19, 2010


Still from Made in Dagenham
Director Nigel Cole's Made in Dagenham is something special. Although many a film have been made about the topics of Equality and Sexism, not many have examined their political, social and personal implications as in-depth as this. 

The true story is set in 1968 in the industrial suburb of Dagenham (East London) where a Ford car plant drives much of the local economy. The Plant employed over 50,000 Men and less than 200 Women, who on average made approximately half the income of their male counterparts.  Under the guidance of Union Leader Albert Passingham (Bob Hoskins), Rita O'Grady (Sally Hawkins) is encouraged to lead female Seamstress co-workers at the plant in an all-out battle for Equal Pay via a Strike.  

Along the way, Rita soon learns that this isn't just a fight against her Employer, but we learn the far-reaching implications of her Cause. Everyone in her life is impacted by her actions, whether it be her co-worker Connie (Geraldine James) who faces power struggles in her marriage after she decides to go on Strike, while under pressure to support her ailing husband.  In addition, Rita's own marriage to Eddie (Daniel Mays) becomes strained as he must embrace a Homemaker role while she delves fully into fighting the status quo.  We see her Boss at Ford, Peter Hopkins (Rupert Graves) and his wife Lisa (Rosamund Pike) divided in their thoughts on Equal Pay, as Lisa secretly lends her support to Rita.  We even see American Ford Executive Robert Tooley (Richard Schiff) threaten to pull his business out of England as Secretary of State for Social Services, Barbara Castle (Miranda Richardson), is a woman and understands what it is to fight her way to the top, siding with Rita and her Union's progressive agenda.  We see a nation divided by those who support Pay Equity and those who feel women inherently are undeserving of it.

Hawkins is devastatingly good here, taking Rita from an everyday woman into a National Hero.  What's remarkable is that we always sense that she is still the same vulnerable and humble person from beginning to end, despite the transition she undergoes.  She particularly is breathtaking in her first of many shining moments in the Film, presenting Rita's case to Ford Executives with a quiver in her voice, on why it is that her job is in fact skilled labour after having been deemed otherwise.  Richardson is an absolute Firecracker, putting forth one of her most likable performances in years in what is an already distinguished Filmography from her.  Hoskins is fully committed, making us love him for the undying devotion he has for the women he represents.   

Made in Dagenham is authentic to the era it recounts and faithful in its understanding of the women whose stories are told here.  We've come a long way, but have still a long way to go.  In Canada, Made in Dagenham will be released through Maple Pictures and it will be in limited release November 26, 2010 and expanding to other cities December 17, 2010.  Undisputedly one of the year's best.  Grade: A+

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