Film review: Made in Dagenham

Last night my best friend and I trekked all the way to Fremantle to see a film I’d scored tickets from from See Films First (if you aren’t on the mailing list, why not?). It was Made in Dagenham. The story of the women machinists of the Ford factory in Dagenham in the UK who went out on strike in 1968 for equal pay – the first women ever to strike. And they succeeded, eventually, in securing a guarantee for equal pay legislation, which was passed in 1970. The first in the world.

The film is very funny, in that very British working-class way we’ve seen before. The women’s dresses are gorgeous and the music is fantastic. But it is the strength of the women and men to hold out under very stressful personal circumstances for the belief that they should be paid equally – a radical notion in the 1960s – that makes this film.

The many layers of sexism inherent in the society of the day are made clear. Some that perhaps are still with us. I remember living in the tail end of this world and my mum experienced unequal pay and the married women’s rules (that women had to leave employment once they were married). It is such a recent history and it is wonderful to see it getting attention. I wrote a post earlier in the year about Broken Hill’s very ‘special’ arrangements and the radio program and exhibition made recently that discuss this.

I have only two gripes. One is that I wonder if the film adequately demonstrates the difficulty and entrenched attitudes to women across the board and that many, many women suffered personal pressures to maintain the status quo. There is the underlying suggestion that Rita O’Grady (the leader of the strikers) neglected her husband and children, which I found difficult to reconcile with the general message of the film. Is it a funny film, a history lesson, a look at a strange past? Is it trying to be all these things? Does it work?

I’m not really sure, but I did enjoy it. It was inspiring to see these women take on Ford, their union and the government and win.

My second gripe was that it was in a tiny cinema and we had to sit three rows from the screen (really, REALLY close) and to the side. Very, very uncomfortable. If the film hadn’t been as good as it was we would have left. So, I suppose that’s got to tell you something!

See it. Tell me what you thought.

One Response to “Film review: Made in Dagenham”
  1. Katrina says:

    I LOVED IT and was dancing in the aisles, punching the air 🙂

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