Made in Dagenham is by far one of my favorite movies of the year. It ranks up there with Winter’s Bone and The Kids Are All Right. There are a variety of reasons why I loved it but the bottom line for me was when the movie ended I wanted to get up and cheer for these women. They inspired me. The film tells the true story how a bunch of “accidental activists” stood up for themselves, demanded equal pay and changed the laws for their nation.
It wasn’t easy. Change never is. These women were fought every step of the way. Treated like second class citizens for so long they had enough and stood together and said no more. They were led by Rita O’Grady played by Sally Hawkins who is a composite of the real women of Dagenham. Sally gives another outstanding and Oscar worthy performance as a latter day Norma Rae complete with the requisite standing on the table with her fist in the air. Rita is a working class heroine, her job is not a luxury. She needs to put food on her table and works just as hard as her husband in the factory. At the start of the film she is a quiet unassuming worker, but as she steps up to lead this band of women she discovers her voice and realizes that she isn’t so bad at standing up for herself and other women’s rights. If I were teaching leadership this film is the perfect case study that shows how leaders are made.
There are wonderful performances all across the film. Rosamund Pike plays the trapped and over educated wife of the head of the Ford company in England who stealthily helps out the strikers because she sees herself in them. Bob Hoskins plays the shop steward who encourages the women to stand up for themselves and strike. And Miranda Richardson is a tour de force as Barbara Castle the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity. She takes the women seriously, stands up to the Ford threats and gets the women back to work with higher wages.
I know that people are a bit worried that people (aka men) will be turned off by the feminist tone of the film. Yes, this is a feminist movie. It’s about women fighting for their rights. You don’t get more feminist than that. But this is not a preachy or heavy-handed film at all. It’s very light hearted and that’s because of the great and Oscar worthy performance of Sally Hawkins. The woman is so good at playing regular women and infusing them with heart. This is a must see.
Opens in limited release today before rolling out across the country.