Made In Dagenham


Directed by: Nigel Cole
Written by:William Ivory
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, Miranda Richardson, Rosamund Pike, Jaime Winstone, Richard Schiff
Released: October 28, 2010
Grade: A-

How can we go weeks without a decent movie and then have two released in the same week?  The Social Network is likely to dominate the box-office this weekend but there’s another great film which is quietly slipping into Australian cinemas.

A lot has been achieved in terms of women’s rights over the past few decades.  You only have to watch a few episodes of the great television show Mad Men to see what life was like in the 1960s for females in the workforce.

Set in 1968 and based on actual events, Made In Dagenham centres on a group of women who have suddenly found themselves at the forefront in the battle for workplace equality.  They work as sewing machinists at the Ford plant in Dagenham, London.  It’s their job to sew the fabric which is used for seat covers and the interior lining on Ford’s newly made cars.

Having recently been classified as “unskilled” by the company, these women have decided to take a stand.  They’re tired of being paid on the lowest pay scale.  They’ve raised their concerns with union representatives and have decided to go on strike.  Their demands are simple – they want to be classified as “semi-skilled” and they want equal pay for both men and women.

What I enjoyed about this film was the many different angles from which the story is explored.  We get to know the women and understand why they have been forced to take action.  We follow the top executives within Ford and hear their strong arguments against change.  We see the unions caught in the middle – wanting to help these ladies whilst ensuring that the jobs of the male employees are not jeopardised.  We discover what part the government played in breaking the stalemate.

The list of strong performances is headed by the likeable Sally Hawkins.  I will always remember her as the bubbly school teacher in Mike Leigh’s brilliant Happy-Go-Lucky (included in my top 10 list of 2008).  It was a role which won Hawkins a Golden Globe award.  This is her most high profile role since Leigh’s film and highlights her diversity as an actress.  She plays Rita O’Grady – a happy married mother who reluctantly finds herself leading the machinists’ fight.  It’s a fight that will take its toll both on her family and her friends.

With more than a few laughs thrown in, Made In Dagenham is a warm-hearted drama that will satisfy most.