The cast is extremely strong - Sally Hawkins as the leader of the action, Rosamund Pike as rich but still downtrodden supporter and Miranda Richardson as Barbara Castle all deliver vivid, moving performances, and Bob Hoskins as a sympathetic male union official is thoroughly charming. Kenneth Cranham also makes a wonderfully slimy villain of the piece. I also especially enjoyed the relationship between the protagonist and her essentially decent but occasionally narky husband, played by Daniel Mays.
I would have liked a little more in the way of grit and a little less sentimentality from the film, though some of the detail of the day-to-day business of being on strike and having to take a free cauliflower to make dinner with was nicely painted. The beauty and bureaucracy of the union system is also perfectly captured. The film cast Barbara Castle as a bit of a hero, which I’m not sure is accurate, but I was very convinced that the spirit of the women striking was very faithful to how it was – there are interviews with some of the real women involved over the credits, which were to me the most affecting part of the film - far more touching than close-ups of Sally Hawkins crying.
This film is a beautiful portrayal of the beginnings of a movement still very much in progress – only last Friday the government failed to pass proposed legislation to force big business to conduct audits on gender pay discrepancies, and women are currently paid 16.4% less than men across the board for full time work. The film shows how far we’ve come as a society in terms of equality but also how far we still have to go – as one of the characters says, “Rights, not privileges. It’s not difficult.”
Made in Dagenham is an accessible and moving account of how we, as a society, addressed a great unfairness, and as such, I wholeheartedly recommend it.