Directed by Nigel Cole (Calendar Girls) and starring Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky), Made in Dagenham is packed full of British talent. It tells the story of the 178 women working at the Dagenham Ford factory deemed “Unskilled Workers” despite their semi-skilled jobs on the assembly line. Initially fighting to change this ranking they then lead the way in the more universal battle of equal pay for women.
Hawkins is charming as Rita, a housewife and mother of two that becomes the unlikely leader of “the girls”. The likable protagonist helps carry the film, which manages to remain funny without watering down the historical significance of the story. Comic relief is provided by a motley crew of characters including aspiring model Sandra, played by Jaime Winstone, and cheeky union rep Albert Passingham (Bob Hoskins), who is at once terrified and enthralled by the women of Dagenham. On the whole the film is amusing, although a few of the situations seem slightly contrived and maybe a little desperate to add humour.
Made in Dagenham is a film about equal rights for women but it’s also about changing history and fighting to improve your circumstances, whoever you are. Female solidarity plays a central role to the film; every single female character is spoken down to and patronised regardless of their class or job. Even Lisa Hopkins (played by the divine Rosamund Pike), with a first class honours in History from Cambridge, is treated like a slave by her husband (Rupert Graves).
It’s also worth noting that the British Film Council, which is to be abolished in July, funded the film. It’s a sad fact that British films like Made in Dagenham might now struggle to find funding. The lack of support for home grown talent will almost certainly reduce the platform from which to tell stories central to British history. In light of these developments, I give this film my highest recommendation. Go and see it, if not to support the dying British cinema industry, then just because it’s really good.