From the director of "Calendar Girls" comes this extraordinary story based on true events. A dramatization of the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant, where female workers walked out in protest against sexual discrimination. Dagenham, England 1968. At the town’s local Ford automobile plant, Rita O’Grady (Golden Globe® winner Sally Hawkins) is one of only 187 women in a workforce of 55,000 men. Facing overwhelming opposition in this “man's world,” Rita rallies her female co-workers to fight for equal pay — a stand that defies the corporate status quo, threatens her marriage, and ultimately exacts a tragic toll. But with the support of the shop's steward (Golden Globe® winner Bob Hoskins) and the government's Employment Secretary (two-time Golden Globe® winner Miranda Richardson), the women become the sensation of the nation — and the catalyst for a profound turning point in time.


Ask probably any woman today if she should be recognised as a ‘skilled’ worker and paid an equivalent wage to her male colleague doing the same job, and she will almost surely say yes. And why not really- after all, man or woman, as long as he or she gets the job done, and gets it done well, why shouldn’t she be paid the same wage he is? It’s the same reasoning behind the proverbial ‘black cat, white cat’ analogy.

But it wasn’t always this way- gender equality was endorsed up until the British Parliament passed the Equal Wage Act in 1970, ending wage discrimination between men and women. The impetus for that was the 1968 strike by 187 female workers of the Ford assembly plant in the London suburb of Dagenham. It was a three-week strike that saw the normally docile women fired up against their management, their union and even their husbands- though in the end, women today would probably proclaim that their struggle was worth every drop of tear and sweat.

British director Nigel Cole takes this slice of British history and turns it into an entertaining feel-good crowd-pleaser that will have you (male and female alike) cheering for the heroes of that age. The leader of the pack is an unassuming wife and mother Rita O’Grady (as played by “Happy Go Lucky’s” Sally Hawkins) who rises up to the occasion when Ford management moves to re-classify her and the rest of her fellow seamstresses from "semi-skilled" to "unskilled”.

At first intimidated, Rita’s indignation at the union meetings quickly grows into a force that will propel her to galvanise her colleagues into action. It will also give her perseverance, even as their strike puts the rest of the men out of work, and becomes a source of discontent within families. But it is ultimately all in the name for a greater cause, one that catches the attention and the sympathy of Britain’s sharp-tongued secretary of state for employment and productivity Barbara Castle (Miranda Richardson).

The outcome of that is already clear right from the start, but Cole’s film succeeds in allowing you to empathise with the odds that these women were facing. Admittedly, they could have just simply thrown in the towel and allowed someone else to make these sacrifices on behalf of them, but their spunkiness shines through every minute of their decision to go up against corporate and eventually the Government. There is much verve and heart in Cole’s direction, and for this reason, his film fully earns the inspiration from its audience that it aspires to.

Cole also has a wonderful cast to thank for this lively film. Hawkins is the heart of the film, and every minute she is onscreen, she lets her audience feel her resolve but also her apprehension at the cost of her actions. Richardson is also brilliant, her tart delivery of every retort absolutely delightful to watch. The male standout among the mostly-female cast is Bb Hoskins, who plays the sympathetic labour rep helping Rita along- Hoskins is all gleam-eyed and mischievous twinkle, and every bit of his performance enjoyable.

William Ivory’s screenplay handles the proceedings with a light touch, never letting it get too maudlin or too sombre. In fact, he finds cheeky humour in every conceivable manner- a banner which the girls unfurl is supposed to read “We Want Sex Equality” but improperly done just reads “We Want Sex” to a group of men driving by. And just like “Calendar Girls”, Nigel Cole does a fantastic job turning a slice of history into an uplifting movie about the things we often take for granted but which came at a price. So don’t be deterred by its subject matter- this is still an amusing crowd-pleaser male or female alike will enjoy




The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio lets you enjoy the retro late-60s radio hits on surround but little else. Visuals are clear and colours are well-defined despite their slightly dulled look to fit with the setting.



Review by Gabriel Chong

Posted on 17 June 2011