Is nothing sacred? It seems not even 007 is immune to the new trend of releasing movies on a Monday. So too with Suffragette, but any day of the week the latter was bound to disappoint. Yes, it conveys the women’s mighty spirit, and the brutality of those who sought to crush it. But that’s all it does and in this day and age it’s not enough. It was a smart move to put the focus on working class women – almost as smart as adding Meryl Streep to the billings for her cameo as Emmeline Pankhurst – but the movement’s class tensions are ignored. That’s unforgivable given its 1912 setting, with rival capitalisms Britain and Germany sliding slowly but surely into the industrialised carnage that would divide the Pankhursts and see the Second International leap, in a matter of weeks, from brave declarations of solidarity sans frontieres to cheering on whichever power its local leaderships shared flags with. There’s no exploration of theoretical context and no attempt to draw obvious parallels – the third big issue of the day being Home Rule – with the Irish struggle. Nor is there a single non-white, a grave omission given the role of Indian women, many of them nannies brought over to tend to rich British children prior to being stranded, thousands of miles from home, when no longer needed.
With engaging characters led by the always convincing Helena Bonham Carter, and the kind of meticulous attention to period authenticity we’ve come to expect on our screens – Downton Abbey … Peaky Blinders – Suffragette will probably do well. But another recent Edwardian piece, last month’s BBC screening of JB Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, sets the bar for intelligent dramatic exploration that gets under the skin of surface reality. So back to the drawing board with this one, I’m afraid. The suffragette cause was too big and too complex to be adequately addressed by such eye candy flim-flam as this.