Rating : *****
A film based on the struggles of the female Ford workers in 1968 where they went on strike for equal pay and through their struggles the 1970 Equal Pay Act came about.
Starring SallyHawkins, Miranda Richardson, Andrea Riseborough as well as Bob Hoskins, Rupert Graves and Kenneth Cranham the film showed not only the strength of the women involved to fight for what is right but also the struggles that inevitably all strikes will bring about as well as how different the women were treated in their strike action then men would have been.
Of all the people in history that I respect people like Rita O’Grady and the women that stood with her are the ones I respect most. A quite simple request made by working class people, simply to be found as skilled workers seeing that the work they did required skill, being refused and having to stand up for their liberties.
That is all that this film is really about. This group of WORKERS being refused their right to be classified as equals and standing up for themselves. The women wanted to be seen as workers and throughout the film you saw otherwise lovely characters show, what now is obviously, blatant sexism just because they didn’t know better. A point was made time and time again that the women ALWAYS backed the men when they went on strike but the whole film long the women found themselves standing alone with no men backing them. The men found it cute up until their jobs were on the line and instead of sitting down thinking it might be time to actually stick up for the women they got ANGRY at them and turned their backs on them.
Just small moments in the film of Rita walking down the street seeing someone she’d been working with, asking how they were just to get a mouthful about how SHE wasn’t the bread winner so SHE doesn’t know how bad it is for the MEN who didn’t have any work. Never did it occur to any of the men she talked to that maybe, just maybe, these women WANTED to be the bread winners. Maybe just maybe they WANTED to be able to provide. The extra wages wouldn’t just be a bonus to their households then it would be putting them and their families better off.
It was never really about that though. It was about being seen as equals. To men sewing the seat linings maybe wasn’t that big a deal but Rita (oh how I loved Rita) made a point that if it was so easy they’d have just employed men to do it. At one point someone asked how they’d cope with what could happen next and she scoffed replying “I’m a woman what a stupid question.” And its true, its as true today as it was then. Women just have to cope. We have to cope with being thought of as the weaker sex yet when it comes to child birth, raising kids, looking after a household etc etc we’re just meant to cope. The second a man gets left to do it and you’ll hear no end of complaining, again shown in the story with Rita’s husband who makes a mess of all the small things he probably takes for granted that Rita does then can’t even was his own shirt but still tries at times to take the moral high ground.
If people want a empowering movie they have to look no further then this.
So many wonderful moments where Rita just handed the sexist views of her peers back at them. “I don’t drink, I don’t beat you and I look after our kids” her husband proclaims and she doesn’t stand down just replies that that is how it SHOULD be and that she isn’t looking for the privilege of being able to look down on someone and say “well I’m a decent enough human so what?” she was just looking for the RIGHT to be paid for the job she was actually doing and not for her biological gender.
With all this said you might think that this movie was some gritty industrial fare.
It really honestly wasn’t. I haven’t seen a more upbeat and honest film. It was bright and colourful which made it feel positive. It had deep characters all round including Bob Hoskin’s Albert who had seen his mother struggle to raise him and his brothers on a lesser wage then men, it had Geraldine James’s character Connie and her husband Roger Lloyd-Peck as George who had fought in the war and struggled with PTSD and in the middle of the film hung himself because he felt he was holding his wife back. The film was full of just people and that is why I like it. It wasn’t there to scream about one side of a debate, it wasn’t there to inform you of every little thing in the world it was there to show you what people, ANY PEOPLE, could do if they just worked together.
So often in films like this you forget that both sides are made of humans. This film reminded you that the women weren’t just females they were WORKERS who deserved to be treated like all other WORKERS regardless of who they were. They were ladies but when they went into that factory they were paid employees of Ford and deserved to be treated like all other skilled employees in Ford.
And it did it with such upbeat enthusiasm that is missing from too much of today’s media.
You were always on their side because they were ALWAYS relate-able characters. The women never became nasty they just stuck to their guns. They didn’t want a sex war they just wanted equality. They were all different with different motivations in life but they all stood together to achieve what at that point seemed impossible. They didn’t even have the support of their fellow workers or their spouses in some cases but they went out there anyway and they did what needed to be done.
I love this film and have always wanted to see it. I caught up with it on iPlayer whilst it was on there and just have fallen in love with it. The characters are great and I honestly think that Sally Hawkins was amazing as the lead and all the female cast from Sally to her other workers (Geraldine James, Andrea Riseborough, Jaime Winstone) as well as the supporting male cast (well it goes without saying that Bob Hoskins was brilliant in everything he did and I’ve always been a fan of Kenneth Cranham as well as Rupert Graves) and some supporting females (Miranda Richardson and the wonderful Rosamund Pike who’s “do you know who I am?” speech made me cry) really make this a unmissable film.
You never hate the male characters for holding their belief’s because you know they just didn’t know better back then but it opens your eyes to just how little they thought of the women.
Now people have no right to look down on us and do so because they are usually misinformed or raised that way but back then women were only just getting to play with the men in society and the transformation of some of their views, mainly Rita’s husband who blunders around his words quite often, is heartening. It never portrays the men as bad but it doesn’t hide the gross inequality of the time.
Unfortunately those attitudes aren’t far from some I’ve encountered now in the new millennium showing whilst people like Rita O’Grady started to put women on the path to true equality (workers no matter what should be seen as workers and therefore treated equally regardless of sex) we still have a long way to go before society see’s everyone as equal.
If you haven’t seen it go and see it because it will be worth every second.