Made in Dagenham * * *

Genre: Drama

Director: Nigel Cole

Writer: William Ivory

Cast: Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, Geraldine James, Miranda Richardson, Rosamund Pike

Running Length: 113 minutes 

Synopsis: Set against the backdrop of the 1960s, Made in Dagenham is based on a true story about a group of spirited women who joined forces to protest for equal wages. Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins), along with her friends and co-workers at the city’s Ford Motor Factory go on strike to protest the unfair wages. Rita is coerced into attending a meeting with shop steward Connie (Geraldine James), sympathetic union representative Albert (Bob Hoskins) and Peter Hopkins (Rupert Graves), Ford’s Head of Industrial Relations. What she expects to be simply a day out of work, complete with a free lunch, turns into much more when she and her colleagues become outraged by the lack of respect shown in the meeting to the women employees. Rita becomes the main driving force of the equal wages movement, and soon it spreads nationwide, and even attracts the attention of the government, especially newly appointed Secretary of State Barbara Castle (Miranda Richardson).

Review: To be honest, I wasn’t expecting Made in Dagenham to be anything but a run of the mill female empowerment movie. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how entertaining and engrossing the film turned out to be. Much of this can be attributed to the excellent ensemble cast, in particular Sally Hawkin’s spirited, delightful turn as the accidental heroine. Although the film is based on a true story, Made in Dagenham does feel a little too pat and tidy for real life, but nonetheless it manages to be a compelling piece of filmmaking. 

Sally Hawkins was suitably impressive in her Oscar-nominated role in Happy-Go-Lucky, and while her portrayal of the plucky Rita O’Grady is not as accomplished, she brings an optimism and a twinkle in the eye to the proceedings, making the film more light-hearted than the traditional feminist movie. Miranda Richardson also deserves kudos, turning the bit part of a government bigwig into a full-on role, and Rosamund Pike is extremely memorable as the underappreciated wife of a Ford official, despite appearing in a limited number of scenes. 

The women’s strike is fodder enough for one movie, and one of the few missteps in Made in Dagenham is its addition of unnecessary subplots – for example, there’s Rita’s co-worker who has to deal with her shell-shocked husband. Although these are compelling side stories, they are not well-connected with the central story and as such feel like they are padding out the running time of the film. It’s also a rather predictable film that ends up exactly where everyone would expect it to be, but the final product is so enjoyable and satisfying that few audience members would be complaining once the end credits roll.

Rating: * * * (out of four stars)

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