A closer look at… Suffragette

© Pathe, 2015.

This is a level 2 guide, suitable for moderately experienced groups. Suffragette is rated 12A for infrequent strong language, moderate violence, a scene of force-feeding.

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

The Scoop – A powerful account of an essential chapter in history

Maud (Carey Mulligan) is a dutiful wife to Sonny (Ben Wishaw) and a loving mother to their young son George (Adam Michael Dodd). Her laundry job is back-breaking, and she barely has it in her to question why she is paid less than the men who work there, or why her supervisor routinely gets away with sexually assaulting the women in his charge.

When her friend Violet (Anne-Marie Duff) introduces her to the Suffragette movement, Maud’s frustration finally finds an outlet. Cautious at first, she is soon influenced by women such as Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter), Emily Wilding Davison (Natalie Press) and the movement’s outlaw leader Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep).

Maud is about to learn how much it will cost her to be a revolutionary. But the more she loses, the bolder she becomes.

‘I was amazed that this extraordinary and powerful true story of ordinary women willing to sacrifice everything for the right to vote had never been told.’ – Director Sarah Gavron

Our Take

Is it unbelievable or all too horribly predictable that the story of the Suffragettes has never been made into a feature film before now? Suffragette not only corrects this oversight, it stands out in a sea of releases which relegate women to supporting roles. More like this, please.

The ever-excellent Carey Mulligan is the emotional centre, with memorable turns from Anne-Marie Duff and Helena Bonham Carter. There may be some truth in the criticism that the film’s storytelling is too straightforward, but that doesn’t rob it of its power. Go see it, then go out and change the world.

© Pathe, 2015.

Dig Deeper

‘It was a war that was fought on our behalf and we reap its rewards today. These women went into unknown territory to try and claim what was theirs.’ – Carey Mulligan

  • Did you enjoy the film, and why or why not? Which scenes had the most impact on you?
  • Why do you think the filmmakers chose to tell the story through the fictional, composite character of Maud? What were some of the benefits of this approach, and do you think there were any drawbacks? What did you make of Carey Mulligan in the role?
  • What are some of the biggest turning points in Maud’s emotional journey through the film? How does she change of the course of the story? Could you relate to any of what she want through, and how might you have reacted in her place?

‘It’s not respectable.’ – Maud

  • Why do you think that there has never been a feature film about the Suffragettes before? In your view, could this be connected to wider issues of gender discrimination in Hollywood? Why might it be important that women are fairly and equally represented onscreen?
  • How does the film portray aspects of gender injustice such as unequal pay, custody rights and sexual harassment? How many of these are still live issues in our society today?
  • What did you make of the film’s male characters? How do they view the women’s struggle? What role do you think men should play in the fight for women’s rights?

‘My job is to enforce the law.’ – Inspector Steed (Brendan Gleeson)

  • How do the Suffragettes in the film weigh up the morality of their actions? In your view, under what circumstances might civil disobedience be justified? Can violent forms of protest ever be justified?

‘I trusted my husband and this government. I was wrong.’ – Alice Haughton (Romola Garai)

  • How might somebody come to the conclusion that the law of the land is unjust? Do human beings have an innate sense of justice, and if so, where might this come from? Is there any such thing as a universal moral law which transcends human laws?
  • What ultimately motivates Maud and the other women to sacrifice so much for the cause? To what extent are sacrifice and suffering necessary to bring about any meaningful change in the world?

‘There will be no more sorrow, nor crying, nor pain. For the former things are passed away.’ – Violet

© Pathe, 2015.

Read More

Force-feeding, Police Surveillance and Assault: On the Set of Suffragette

Suffragette Movie is Good for White Feminism, Bad for Intersectionality

Suffragette: Male Actors Turned Down Roles in Meryl Streep Film as ‘Men’s Roles Weren’t Meaty Enough’

Helen Pankhurst: ‘We Need to Keep Fighting’

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Sophie Lister

Damaris resources bring films to new audiences, start conversations, and enrich lives. Find out more at www.damarismedia.com Here at the Damaris Film Blog, we publish regular discussion guides to help you make the most of the latest cinema releases.

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