starring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson, Meryl Streep
screenplay by Abi Morgan
directed by Sarah Gavron
by Walter Chaw Focus on two scenes. The first, the pivotal moment where evil police inspector Steed (Brendon Gleeson) begs his superintendent for mercy for the brave ladies arrested while violently protesting their lack of the vote. The second, a reflective moment in which audience surrogate Maud (Carrie Mulligan), a fictionalized composite character like Charlie Sheen's in Platoon, reads a poignant book by poignant candlelight. (Seriously, she looks like a Hallmark commercial--it's really awesome.) Steed delivers his spittle-flecked, earnest-member-of-the-ruling-majority-finding-humanity-in-the-struggle-of-the-martyred-heroes speech, whereupon director Sarah Gavron, following up Brick Lane and Village at the End of the World with another IMPORTANT film, shoots a standard long shot down the middle of a stairwell. It doesn't aid the scene. It doesn't even make much sense in the context of the scene. There's no reason to establish their place in that space; there's nothing to be said about the symbolism, as both inspector and superintendent appear to be on a middle-floor level. In fact you can barely see them. It's just a pretty shot. A pretty standard shot. It shows up in a lot of student films and student-photographer portfolios. And when Maud reads a book given her by one of the real leaders of England's suffrage movement by flickering flame in an abandoned church? It's pretty thick, isn't it? Here's the clincher: the way she's sitting and holding the book, the candle is casting no illumination on the pages--but lights her up just perfectly, like a little golden angel. This is exploitation, isn't it?