Made in Dagenham

Entertaining Social History, 17 October 2010

Author: gary-444 from United Kingdom

A light, but solid account of the women’s strike at Ford’s Dagenham to secure equal pay for women. Director Nigel Cole’s last big success was “Calendar Girls” and his eye for place and dialogue is much in evidence once again.. A very good cast performs a good script well, in a confident running time of one hour and three quarters.

Sally Hawkins shines as strike leader by default, Rita, ably supported by Bob Hoskins as shop steward, a part he plays with relish and aplomb. Yet unlike “Calendar Girls” ,this story has an epic sweep about it which the screenplay struggles with. Although set on the outskirts of London, in 1968, very little period music is used, depriving proceedings of nostalgia and mood music, even the fashions are slightly out of sync with the year. Equally, the all female workshop’s predilection for stripping to their underwear in the un air –conditioned heat eschews the obvious option of plenty of shots of pretty girls in nice bras, for matronly women in passion killing foundation wear. These easy “hits” are missed, for better or for worse. Yet there are the “London Trademark” shots of Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Double Decker red buses – but without a Beatles and Kinks soundtrack.

A protracted strike does not make for entertaining viewing so wisely Cole focuses on the domestic melodrama’s of the striking women. It is when it reaches beyond that the story suffers. Ford, and their Chairman, are shown in vignette in a fairly unfavourable light, such that a notice appears at the film’s end to say what a model company they now are. The all male Union bosses fare little better and are largely shown as self centred misogynists. In the same way that the story tells how many of the male workers were not behind the strike, equally male viewers may feel that the male view point is shown in shorthand.

A very contrived relationship between Rita, and the wife of a local Ford Manager, played by the impossibly gorgeous Rosamund Pike grates a little, whilst Miranda Richardson makes the best of a ridiculously underwritten role as Barbera Castle. The comic bumbling duo of her under secretaries should have been left on the cutting room floor. John Sessions turn as Harold Wilson is hopelessly misconceived.

Yet for all the flaws when the film over stretches itself, it is at home, “at home”. Dagenham domestic life, and tragedy, is fondly evoked with Geraldine James as Connie, particularly good, and the feel of the era is authentically re –created. This isn’t a comedy, nor is it a social history, but as light drama it entertains and satisfies.

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