Carey Mulligan’s 2015 will be shaped by two common elements: fabulous headgear and the pursuit of women’s equality. Last month, she starred as the fiercely independent Bathsheba Everdene in the latest adaption of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd. This fall, she’ll play Maud, a member of the women’s suffrage movement in 19th and 20th century Britain in Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette. That’s pretty much the definition of a pattern.
But Gavron’s film looks like the somber cousin to Thomas Vinterberg’s soapy melodrama: Gavron means to tell the tale of the fight for women’s right to vote. There’s nothing romantic about Suffragette‘s first trailer, no detail that softens the slice of history Gavron seeks to recreate for the screen. This looks like a hard-edged movie, which is only appropriate in light of the struggles waged in the name of civil liberties.
The women’s suffrage movement, which sought to secure not only the right to vote but the right for women to run for elected offices, first developed momentum in the United Kingdom in 1872. No timeline is established in the trailer, so it’s not 100% clear when, exactly, Suffragette takes place. Based on a few key bits of imagery, it’s a safe bet that we’re talking post-1903 England, after the formation of the Women’s Social and Political Union, when arson and militancy were favored modes of protest.
Gavron has assembled a pretty stellar cast here, including Meryl Streep, who will probably pull out an Oscar nod for this if she doesn’t score one for Jonathan Demme’s Ricki and the Flash. (She has to. It’s California state law.) Streep plays one of the only recognizably real humans in the ensemble, political activist Emmeline Pankhurst, alongside Natalie Press, who steps into the role of Emily Davison. Everyone else – including Helena Bonham-Carter, Brendan Gleeson, and Ben Whishaw – appears to be playing either composites or imagined characters.
That’s totally fine, of course. Suffragette‘s arrival could hardly be more timely, nor its message more relevant. We’re all wrapped up in what it means for movies to be “feminist” at the moment; it looks like Gavron has made the most overtly feminist movie of the year. We’ll see come October.
Suffragette arrives in theaters October 23rd, 2015.