Given director Nigel Cole’s previous work in Calendar Girls, it is unsurprising that Made in Dagenham is a film that concentrates more on the emotional side rather than the factual evidence of the 1968 strike by female workers at the Ford Dagenham car plant. As this film is a dramatisation featuring mostly fictional characters, that doesn’t matter too much; Made in Dagenham is an enjoyable movie which should do well, in the UK market at least.
Rita O’Grady becomes the reluctant leader of a campaign for equal pay for women in late-1960s Britain. As well as dealing with personal issues brought on by the strike, Rita and her band of campaigners have to contend with chauvinistic bosses, unhelpful union leaders, and numerous others in their quest to end pay discrimination…
Made in Dagenham is in many ways typical of mainstream British cinema. It is a feel-good film combining drama and comedy. The film features many well-known faces from the British screen. And the focus is on a very particular group on individuals; in this case a group of working class women living in Dagenham.
Although it ticks these boxes, that is not to say that Made in Dagenham is a tired film. Some of the characters are well-developed, and will be responded to accordingly by audiences. Others are featured more for comic value, but again this seems to work in Nigel Cole’s film. Whilst the film holds no great surprises, it is engaging enough to entertain viewers throughout.
Some may complain that Made in Dagenham follows a well-tread path in British film, eschewing realism for sentimentality. The film, however, functions on the level it intends to; a feel-good film that will appeal to audiences well-versed in the style of its predecessors. On this level, Made in Dagenham is effective. Whilst it may not be ground-breaking, it is enjoyable.
Sally Hawkins gives an excellent performance as Rita, the reluctant working wife and mother who, at heart, understands how important it is to stand up against injustice. Bob Hoskins is watchable as ever, in a role that does not stretch his capabilities in the least. Geraldine James and Miranda Richardson both add a necessary weight to proceedings, whilst Andrea Riseborough is immense fun as the outspoken Brenda.
Technical credits are good all-round. The 1960s soundtrack works well to transport viewers back to the late-1960s setting. Likewise, the costume department have excelled in this respect.
Some of the humour and references may be lost on non-British audiences, but for the most part Made in Dagenham has universal appeal, if taken on face value as the feel-good film it is.