Title: Made in Dagenham
Director: Nigel Cole
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Daniel Mays, Bob Hoskins, Geraldine James, Nicola Duffet, Lorraine Stanley, Jamie Winstone, Andrea Riseborough, Phil Cornwell, Andrew Lincoln, Rosamund Pike, Miranda Richardson
Docu-dramas can usually be interesting no matter what the delivery style chosen by the respective director. All the flick really needs is to introduce the said drama. If the audience isn’t sure about the outcome, the flick is far more intriguing and the characters will resonate more with them. Basically, just live up to your genre labeling and no harm should fall upon thee.
Made in Dagenham started to figure this out about two-thirds of the way through. The 113 minute flick contains a variety of talented performers, all playing unique characters. Problem is, the first half of the flick is a jumbled mess.
Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins) works at the Ford plant in 1968 Dagenham, England. She is one of 187 women machinists and they want equal pay. Their supervisor, Albert (Bob Hoskins), agrees that they should be paid just the same as the male workforce at Ford. However, the heavy roadblocks of unions and the Ford suits do not share the progressive mind of Albert and his girls. So they do the unthinkable and strike. Even though they’re just a small contingent of the giant automobile plant in Dagenham, the ripple effect of their actions shuts down the entire plant.
Rita’s husband Eddie (Daniel Mays) also works at the Ford plant. At first, all the men in the tight-knit community support the women. That is until the strike goes on longer than expected and income ceases to exist. Rita and her girls refuse to bend on their terms with Ford’s big boys and gain national notoriety. Even the Prime Minister and his Secretary of Employment Barbara Castle (Miranda Richardson) begin to take notice. Eventually the women machinist are heading toward a historical debate with the unions and the government, all while their families struggle to make ends meet.
This is a true account of the events that took place back in 1968. So yes, the outcome could already be known by the viewer. Having said that, if one wasn’t up to speed, the outcome is unfortunately made fairly obvious from the get-go. And that’s the problem. The script doesn’t do anything to mask what will happen. In a last ditch effort, a few random dramatic moments involving the women’s home life strike an emotional chord (a minor one) that the audience can relate to. Yet that doesn’t happen until the third act and by that point, the level of intrigue is slowly withering away.
Now if this flick was keeping to the facts – which is questionable when you see the clips of real women from back then during the credits and then compare it to the casting for this flick – one can accept that. When reading about history, some stories are interesting and some are very plain. Dagenham is the latter and is drawn out for no apparent reason. If this was treated as a short film (20 minutes or less), it would have been more entertaining. By extending it, the well-acted characters become long-winded. Plus, the mumbling dialogue – fast talking British accent – is very tough to follow. One will not even register an emotional feeling on how society thought back then. And that is the point of these flicks. When watching similar historical pieces such as Rosewood – which depicted how whites still oppressed black citizens – one had emotional thoughts on how people acted back then. As in, how do we ever think like this? In this flick, you just don’t care.
Overall, Made in Dagenham peaks the interest but the lack of natural drama in the story is a killer. Probably should have just done a traditional documentary. That would possibly excuse the lack of feeling the majority of this flick is truly missing. The set designs weren’t all that fun to explore either. If one is a history buff and is enamored by these types of stories, just go read the summation on Wikipedia.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Review by Joe Belcastro