Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Sarah Gavron|
|Written by||Abi Morgan|
|Music by||Alexandre Desplat|
|Edited by||Barney Pilling|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$34.04 million|
Suffragette is a 2015 British historical period drama film about women's suffrage in the United Kingdom, directed by Sarah Gavron and written by Abi Morgan. The film stars Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson, Anne-Marie Duff, Ben Whishaw, and Meryl Streep.
Filming began on 24 February 2014. It is the first feature film to be shot in the Houses of Parliament. The film was released in the United Kingdom on 12 October 2015 by French film company Pathé through their British distributor 20th Century Fox with a limited release in the United States on 23 October 2015 by Focus Features.
In 1912, Maud Watts is a 24-year-old laundry worker. While delivering a package, she is caught up in a suffragette protest which includes her workmate, Violet Miller.
Alice Haughton, the wife of an MP, encourages women from the laundry to testify to a Parliamentary committee. Violet offers but is beaten by her abusive husband and Maud testifies. The women later learn, at a public announcement, that the vote is not to be extended. Maud is caught up in the protest, arrested, and jailed for a week. While in jail, she meets Emily Davison, a confidante of Emmeline Pankhurst.
Maud faces stigma from neighbours and workmates. She tells her husband Sonny that she will stay away from the suffragettes but attends a secret rally to hear Pankhurst speak. She has a brief exchange with Pankhurst. Again detained, she is taken home by police. This time, her husband throws her out. Maud struggles to see her son, continuing to work until her picture is published as a known suffragette. Maud is then sacked and, past breaking point, she burns the hand of her male supervisor, who has been sexually abusing girls in the laundry for years, including Maud when she was younger, and Maggie, Violet's daughter. The police are called, and Inspector Steed allows Maud to leave, offering her an opportunity to act as an informer. Maud refuses.
Sonny continues to prevent Maud from seeing their son, George. This prompts Maud into more radicalism in favour of women's rights. She learns that Sonny has offered George for adoption. Maud becomes more radical and is involved in bombing pillar boxes and cutting telegraph wires. She and her comrades are imprisoned after they blow up an empty Parliamentary residence. In prison, Maud goes on hunger strike and is subjected to brutal force-feeding.
The suffragettes feel that they must do still more to gain attention. They decide to attend the Derby when King George V will be in attendance, planning to step in front of the cameras and unfurl their banners. Before they go, Emily Davison hands Maud a copy of Dreams (1890), a book by Olive Schreiner that has been passed from one suffragette to another. On the day of the Derby, only Maud and Emily attend. They are barred from the area near the King, but Emily decides that they must carry on anyway. While the race is underway, Emily runs onto the track, stepping in front of Anmer, the King's horse, and Maud witnesses her being trampled to death. After returning to London, Maud retrieves Violet's daughter, Maggie, from the laundry, and takes her to the home of Alice Haughton, who agrees that Maggie can work there instead. Maud later joins in Emily's funeral procession. The film ends by stating that Emily's funeral was reported around the world; and that certain women over 30 in the UK were given the right to vote in 1918, rights over their own children in 1925, and the same voting rights as men in 1928. Scrolling text lists countries that preceded Britain in giving women the vote and others that did so later.
Only Pankhurst, Davison, Lloyd George and King George V are not fictitious.
In April 2011 it was announced that Film4 Productions, Focus Features and Ruby Films were developing a history drama film about the British women's suffrage movement of the late 19th and early 20th century. Abi Morgan was set to write the script while Sarah Gavron was attached to direct the film. On 24 October 2013, it was revealed that Pathé has replaced Focus, while the BFI Film Fund was to fund the film and that Ryan Kavanaugh was attached to produce the British film.
In October 2014 Relativity Media acquired only the North American rights and Pathé the international rights to distribute Suffragette. However, in 17 March 2015, Focus Features took over the North American distribution rights, after the success of The Theory of Everything. The main reason was that Relativity had filed for bankruptcy, so Focus took over the distribution rights in the United States and Ryan dropped out of producing the film due to the bankruptcy of Relativity.
Carey Mulligan was cast to play the lead role on 24 February 2013; Helena Bonham Carter joined on 20 December 2013; Meryl Streep was cast as British suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst on 19 February 2014; Ben Whishaw and Brendan Gleeson joined the cast on 20 February 2014.
On 27 March 2015, Relativity Media was originally going to distribute the film in the U.S. only, but because Relativity filed for bankruptcy, producers had put the British still on the market, a new distributor is currently unknown. Later Focus Features acquired the North American rights to the film taking the U.S. distribution rights from Relativity to Pathé on 17 March 2015 and making a turnaround from Relativity to Focus, Focus set the film for a 23 October 2015 limited release in the United States. After taking over the film rights from Relativity.
In June 2015, it was announced that Suffragette would receive its European Premiere on 7 October 2015 as the opening film of the BFI London Film Festival. The LFF Director Clare Stewart said Sarah Gavron's feature was an "urgent and compelling film, made by British women, about British women who changed the course of history." The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on 4 September 2015.
To promote the film prior to its October 2015 release, Suffragette teamed with the magazine Timeout London to develop marketing campaign featuring the film's stars. After its publication in September 2015, the resulting material generated immediate controversy. Mulligan, Streep, Garai and Duff appeared in a promotional photograph wearing t-shirts emblazoned with a Pankhurst quotation, "I'd rather be a rebel than a slave." This quickly led to a media furore, with critics describing the magazine's choice of slogan "unfortunate," "tone-deaf," and "racist." The original Pankhurst quotation, uttered only briefly in the film itself, drew on a legacy of racist rhetoric embraced by many nineteenth-century women's rights campaigners and suffragettes, mainly in Britain and the United States.
The group Sisters Uncut demonstrated at the London premiere against cuts to domestic violence services, which Helena Bonham-Carter described as "perfect. If you feel strongly enough about something and there's an injustice there you can speak out and try to get something changed". Carey Mulligan said that the protest was "awesome" and that she was sad she had missed it.
Suffragette has received positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 73%, based on 200 reviews, with an average rating of 6.7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Suffragette dramatizes an important – and still painfully relevant – fact-based story with more than enough craft and sincerity to overcome its flaws." On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 67 out of 100, based on 37 critics, indicating "generally favourable reviews".