The British film industry really does like charming, nostalgic period pieces, doesn't it? In the last year we've had The Boat That Rocked, Cemetery Junction and An Education, all which, to a certain extent, package up comedy and drama with a knowing representation of the 1960s and 1970s, an era where, if you believe the hype, everything changed. Made In Dagenham, the latest from Calendar Girls director Nigel Cole, is no different.
Here's the hook. It's 1968, and the female machinists at the Dagenham Ford motor car plant aren't happy. A recent pay restructure has classed them as unskilled, guaranteeing them wages well below the rates of their male colleagues. This is clearly unsuitable. So they strike.
Initially uncertain, the women are led by young worker Rita O'Grady (Sally Hawkins), whose resilience in the face of resistance from the employers, fellow workers, and even husbands, help them to eventually make their mark on British culture, and pave the way for the Equal Pay Act two years later.
There's a hint of a fairy tale in how Made In Dagenham condenses history, compositing characters and situations, and wrapping it up in a pleasant package. It uses iconography and nostalgia to paint with broad strokes, while squirreling away any real ambiguity, conflict or complications behind picturesque cinematography and charming performances.
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