Review written for Doncaster Free Press (October, 2010)
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The term “feel-good film” is a poisoned chalice in cinema; the expression can evoke thoughts of romantic comedies that insult the viewers’ intelligence and include contrived obstacles to overcome, before happiness is predictably achieved in the final frames. However, put those prejudices to one side; Made in Dagenham is a genuinely feel-good film – in all the right ways.
The picture, set in 1968, tells the true story of a group of female machinists working for Ford in their Dagenham plant, and their battle to achieve equal pay to their male counterparts. An excellent Sally Hawkins leads the line as the women resort to industrial action that would change women’s employment rights throughout the world. Bob Hoskins gives as reliable a performance as ever in the role of the union shop steward, one of only a handful of men throughout the film to support the women. The supporting cast is outstanding, especially Rosamund Pike in a pivotal role, and the tremendous Miranda Richardson as Barbara Castle, the Secretary of State for Employment. The only misfire is Andrew Lincoln playing an arrogant teacher in an unconvincing plotline which appears tacked on in order to service the plot.
Made in Dagenham continues a tradition in British cinema of depicting a community uniting against adversity; think of the unemployed steel workers in The Full Monty or the miners’ band in Brassed Off. Here, Nigel Cole constructs a film just as engaging as these aforementioned films, and one that outshines Calendar Girls, his previous entry into this oeuvre. He skilfully injects entertainment into what could be a dry subject and whilst a criticism of the film may be that it is a slightly glossy version of events and is at times in danger of descending to cliché, this is perhaps understandable in order to gain a mainstream audience for this very important story. Be warned however - it’s not all smooth sailing as the strain of the strike begins to toll on the workers and their families, and as well as laughs, there will also be tears before the final credits roll.