DRAMA; 1hr 40min
STARRING: Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Whishaw, Anne-Marie Duff, Natalie Press
Finding her voice: Mulligan (centre)
Twenty-four-year-old laundress Maud Watts (an emotionally attuned Mulligan) isn't an obvious candidate for a crusade. She keeps her head down and her hands busy, whether sweating blood at work or at home as a dutiful wife (to Whishaw's churlish Sonny) and doting mother to her little boy. Conversion to the suffragette cause is hard for Maude: her arrest and imprisonment after a demonstration angers Sonny, who as a typical 1912 London husband regards his wife as second-sex property to whom the vote is irrelevant. Maud presses on, buoyed by the support of evangelical women (Bonham Carter, Duff and Press) and inspired by suffragettes' leader Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep).
"I would rather be a rebel than a slave," Mrs Pankhurst enunciates in crisp and feisty tones. Easier said: as Brick Lane director Sarah Gavron's handsomely staged, grimly inflamed grind takes conscientious pains to point out, a right that most Western women take for granted today was fought for and paid for with other women's lives. Maud is a fictional character but her experiences are not — as a mouse who finally channels her roar, she sacrifices not only her entire existence but the person she believed herself to be.