Based on the 1968 Ford sewing machinists strike, Made in Dagenham is the story of how one woman lead a strike for women to get equal pay leading to an act in 1970. Directed by Nigel Cole and written by William Ivory, the film is a dramatization of the strike that affected the work force in Britain and led to the Equal Pay Act of 1970. Starring Sally Hawkins, Daniel Mays, Rosamund Pike, Jaime Winstone, Andrea Riseborough, Geraldine James, Bob Hoskins, and Miranda Richardson. Made in Dagenham is a terrific yet light-hearted film from Nigel Cole.
It’s the spring of 1968 in Dagenham, England as Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins) is among a group of 187 women working at the Dagenham assembly plant for Ford Motors to sew car leather. Unhappy with the working conditions of the work place as well as the fact that they’re only paid half the salary that men have including Rita’s husband Eddie (Daniel Mays). While their foreman Albert (Bob Hoskins) agree with what the women want, he tries to help them deal with the bosses for a fair pay wage but doesn’t go that way leading to a strike. Joined by fellow workers Brenda (Andrea Riseborough), Sandra (Jaime Winstone), and Connie (Geraldine James).
With the strike affecting profits for Ford motors, Fords executive Robert Tooley (Richard Schiff) flies from the U.S. to make some move. The move would have the Dagenham factory down prompting the men not to work bringing problems for Eddie and Rita. With Rita still fighting for the cause, it gets the attention of Secretary of State Barbara Castle (Miranda Richardson) who is interested over the strike despite the pressure of the government led by Prime Minister Harold Wilson (John Sessions). After some pressing issues financially and personally for the women, a woman named Lisa (Rosamund Pike), who is the wife of a Ford executive (Rupert Graves), asks Rita to keep on fighting. Notably as she got Rita to co-sign a complaint about an abusive teacher at their kids’ school who is officially kicked out. This prompts Rita to continue in her fight as she finally gets a meeting with Barbara Castle that would change things for Britain.
While it is a fictional account of the 1968 Ford machinists strike, the film is an inspiring tale about how one woman led a strike for equal pay and respect. While there’s bits of melodrama that makes the film more in tune with what the women struggling in their lives while bringing characters who would do more to help this woman to keep on fighting. William Ivory’s script is good for the way characters such as Rita is portrayed as a wife and mother just wanting to do what is right for her family while a character like Albert is an unlikely ally because he’s a man. Yet, he is someone that was raised by his mother whom he felt should’ve gotten the same amount of pay the men did. While the script is quite formulaic and flawed, it is still a good story that does show a nice piece of history as well as a story that is empowering.
Nigel Cole’s direction is very good for the way he creates late 1960s Dagenham and London along with various other places while creating some wonderful shots of the locations. Still, he keeps the drama and bits of humor in a straightforward manner while utilizing some interesting compositions to play up the drama and humor of the film. Even in heavier moments where he knows not to go too far and what not to show. Cole does keep things exciting in his presentation though his approach is uneven where he often tries to make things very light-hearted to be entertaining and fun. Yet, he also wants to play up the drama of what these women are struggling with elements of melodrama. Despite the messiness, Cole does manage to make a worthwhile and solid film.
Cinematographer John de Borman does a nice job with the film‘s colorful cinematography from the vibrant yet somewhat de-colored look of the exteriors to the more stylish schemes for some of the interiors in the film. Editor Michael Parker does a pretty good job with the editing as it’s mostly straightforward while utilizing some multiple split-screens for some big protest moments as well as injecting some real-life newsreel footage of the real-life events. Production designer Andrew McAlpine, along with set decorator Anna Lynch-Robinson and art director Ben Smith, does great work in the set pieces created from the look of the factory to the posh home of Lisa.
Costume designer Louise Stjernsward does a superb job in the costumes from the dresses the women wear to complement the 1960s style to an early version of the hot pants that the character of Sandra wears. Hair and makeup design by Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou is wonderful to play up the different hair styles of the women. Visual effects supervisor Sheila Wickens does some fine work with the minimal visual effects used such as a nighttime shot scene of Dagenham at night. Sound editor Ian Wilson does an excellent job with the sound work from the atmosphere of what goes on in a factory to the more intimate moments in the film.
The film’s music by David Arnold is quite delightful though nothing very spectacular as it’s mostly a typical orchestral score that either plays up the humor or the drama. The film’s soundtrack is a real highlight for the music that appears from acts like Desmond Dekker, the Easybeats, the Troggs, Lemon Pipers, Traffic, Dusty Springfield, the Temptations, the Mindbenders, and Sandie Shaw plus a new Shaw song written by Arnold and Billy Bragg that is a wonderful cut from the famed 60s British pop icon.
The casting by Lucy Bevan is brilliant as it features a voice cameo from Danny Huston as the top American Ford boss, Roger Lloyd-Pack as Connie’s war-stricken husband, Kenneth Cranham as the sexist Monty Taylor, Andrew Lincoln as the abusive teacher Rita and Lisa file a complaint towards, Rupert Graves as Lisa’s executive husband, John Sessions as then-Prime Minister Harold Wilson, Sian Scott and Robbie Kay as Rita and Eddie’s children, and Richard Schiff as American Ford executive Robert Tooley. Notable supporting roles such as Andrea Riseborough and Jaime Winstone in their respective roles as the young and flirtatious Brenda and Sandra are fun to watch while Geraldine James is very good as the older but tough Connie. Rosamund Pike is excellent as Lisa, an executive’s wife who feels mistreated by her husband as she helps out Rita while the two battle an abusive teacher in their kids’ school. Daniel Mays is wonderful as Rita’s husband Eddie who finds himself lost in Rita’s new role as strike leader while dealing with the loss of his job as he has a hard time trying to deal with what his wife is doing.
Bob Hoskins is superb as Albert, the foreman who helps out Rita and the other women in their strike as he believes they deserve a fair share. Miranda Richardson is amazing as Barbara Castle as Richardson brings a no-nonsense approach to the famed politician as well as a charm as it’s definitely one of Richardson’s best performances. Finally, there’s Sally Hawkins in a remarkable role as Rita O’Grady where she brings a real-life determination as a wife and mother who wants to have the same respect her husband has while fighting for her friends who work beside her. While Hawkins gets to have a few funny moments, it is mostly a dramatic one as it showcases the range she has proving that she’s one of the best actresses working today.
Made in Dagenham is a solid and good-hearted film from Nigel Cole that features a radiant performance from Sally Hawkins. Despite being uneven in its tone, it is a film that is quite inspirational as well as being a good historical piece about the 1968 Ford machinists strike that led the way to the Equal Pay Act of 1970. In the end, Made in Dagenham is a delightful film from Nigel Cole.
© thevoid99 2012