Made in Dagenham (2010)
Dir: Nigel Cole
This is another example of films teaching me something about events in history that I really knew nothing of, but are very interesting to learn about.
Using a fictional character of Rita (Sally Hawkins), this film shows the sewing machinist’s strike in the Ford car factory in Dagenham in the 1960’s, and how the all female workers of that department were put on the lowest pay grade and categorized as ‘unskilled’, leading them to walk out. Their actions then have bigger implications on the Ford corporation, and women working around the country.
The ladies being categorized as unskilled is nuts, the work they are doing is very clearly skilled. You can see how they were very justified in asking for an increase in their pay grade. The issue at hand is far bigger than they at first realise though, and becomes a gender pay dispute rather than just being limited to their own department or company, with their strike becoming just the start of a wider wave of action.
There’s lots of great humour, especially with moments such as the ladies all working in their bras due to the heat and then all the commotion when a man walks in, like the clucking of excited hens. It’s all really good-natured fun between them, and much of this is with the scenes of Bob Hoskins as their union representative.
Good use of archive footage, cut in to show the production lines realistically and accurately. At some points it especially focuses on the cars. Also footage of men saying that women shouldn’t be paid as much, would be ludicrous to say that nowadays.
Generally the cast is very good. Sally Hawkins surprised me in what quickly becomes the main role, as Rita becomes the representative for the female workforce in the factory. Rosamund Pike is always great and really suits her role, though there’s sadly not enough of her, her character’s situation seems to be equally interesting as an Oxbridge graduate whose husband doesn’t give her anywhere near the respect she deserves and is stuck feeling demeaned in a life that’s confined to housewife tasks. Some other roles stand out too, including Richard Schiff (without a beard), and the rest of the machinist ladies as an ensemble, including Andrea Riseborough and Jaime ‘Daughter of Ray’ Winstone. Miranda Richardson is particularly superb, though it’s hard to shake the image of her as ‘Queenie’ in ‘Blackadder’, but she’s brilliantly assertive here and is always great when she’s like that. She was the one member of the cast to be particularly praised for her role, and gained a BAFTA nomination for best supporting actress for it.
When the film was released there was a little discussion of whether the certification in the UK was too high simply because of the inclusion of some strong language, with the makers of the film suggesting that the factory setting needed some expletives as it was natural, and that it was akin to ‘The King’s Speech’. Having now seen the film I disagree. I didn’t notice much of the language being confined to the factory floor, I think more was outside that setting, as really much of the film takes place outside the factory as they’re on a very prolonged strike.
There’s a little footage of the real women involved at the end, and that’s nice to see, especially as they look as bubbly and lively as the characters in the film that are meant to represent them.