DRAMA; 1hr 53min
STARRING: Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins
End of the line: Hawkins
In 1968, as a response to being regraded as unskilled by Ford Motor Company management, 187 women machinists at the company’s Dagenham, Essex, factory stage a one-day strike that blows out into a full-on campaign for equal pay. The ladies in Calendar Girls director Nigel Cole’s robust accounting of these actual events are a chipper lot, rallied to the underdog rising cause by union rep Arthur (Hoskins, in cuddly bear mode) and clever clogs Rita (Hawkins), a composite character of rare-bird political chops.
Ford management is unamused by the action, not that amusement is a strong managerial suit at the best of times. Which these are not, as the strike drags on and Ford lays off 5,000 men, among them Rita’s over-it husband (Daniel Mays), who also becomes fed up with playing chief cook and bottle washer. But the outcome is history in the making, with Ford agreeing to pay the women 92 per cent of male wages and the passing of Britain’s Equal Pay Act in 1970.
Dagenham is a ripper story of grace under pressure and a golden opportunity for Hawkins, the Miss Sunshine star of Happy-Go-Lucky, to play an emotional scale that shows everyone what she is made of.