Set a century in the past, Sarah Gavron's Suffragette explores the women's suffrage movement in early-20th-century Britain through the eyes of working wife and mother Maud. Is the film as controversial as the stars have been in promoting it? Here's what critics are saying:
- "A more conventional film about the fight for suffrage could easily have riled us up with a portrait of bygone oppression and then congratulated us on the progress we've made," writes AO Scott at the New York Times. But Suffragette isn't conventional. It "unfolds partly as an Edwardian thriller," and though there are "a few too many glowingly emotive speeches," the film as a whole is "stirring and cleareyed—the best kind of history lesson."
- "The film's single biggest asset is the performance of star Carey Mulligan," who "gives one of her most persuasive, convincing performances," writes Kenneth Turan at the Los Angeles Times. But there are problems: The film is "more dead-on earnest and schematic than it needs to be" and "leans heavily on contrivance," Turan writes. "As good as Suffragette is when at its best, the story it tells deserves better."
- "The British suffragettes finally get a film they deserve," writes Cath Clarke at Time Out. She argues the "tough, raw, bleak-looking film makes the suffragettes' dilemma feel immediate and real." Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep are "excellent," but Mulligan delivers "a tremendous, awards-worthy performance … You see the emotion flicker in her face as Maud wakes up and finds her voice." She adds some of the film's "women-hating men" sound "every bit like a Twitter troll."
- Peter Travers agrees with Scott. "What makes Suffragette a relevant rabble-rouser, besides Mulligan's fierce, affecting performance, is the way it won't bow to the kind of Hollywood formula that tsk-tsks about how bad it was then—only to wrap everything up with a comfy banner," he writes at Rolling Stone. "The feminist struggle continues. And it powers through this movie even when the contours of the story flirt with the trite. Suffragette—flaws and all—is a movie that matters."
(Read more Carey Mulligan