With strikes returning to the national news agenda, now is an interesting time to be reminded of the machinists strikes at Ford’s Dagenham car plant in 1968, organised for the first time by women, that directly resulted in changes to the law regarding sexual discrimination and equal pay.
Like in The Full Monty, that other British working class tale about overcoming diversity, there are amusing moments in Made in Dagenham but with a serious message at heart.
The historic significance of what these women achieved cannot be lost on the audience, and rather like at the end of each episode of Band of Brothers, before the credits roll the real people who inspired this re-telling of their story speak to the camera.
The de facto leader of the machinists and star of Made in Dagenham is Rita (Sally Hawkins, best known for playing Poppy in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky).
Rita seems constantly on the verge of tears but is someone who grows as the movie progresses from a quiet suburban housewife to a savy political operator and one who can talk as an equal to the grey men at the Trades Union Conference and forward-thinking employment minister Barbara Castle (Miranda Richardson), who champions their cause.
Hawkins and Richardson are joined by a fine ensemble cast packed full of star turns. Bob Hoskins is the women’s lively line manager, Jaime Winstone the machinist dreaming of breaking free of Essex and Rosamund Pike the wife of a Ford manager who also sympathises with the women’s cause.
They are all characters who we care about and root for in a hugely enjoyable and uplifting production, one of the most feel-good films of the year.
Made in Dagenham is currently being shown at the Watershed, Showcase Cinema de Lux, Vue Cribbs Causeway and Vue Longwell Green.