Reporter: What if Mrs. Castle says “no deal”? How will you cope then?
Rita: Cope? How will we cope? We’re women. Now, don’t ask such stupid questions.
I expect adjectives such as “gritty” are used to describe this sort of film, where families live in tower blocks and fridges get repossessed. It had a sort of Full Monty feel about it, the Working Classes making the best of a bad deal and everyone lives happily ever after because the benchmark was so low in the first place. I enjoyed watching it and rooting for the women, but I didn’t think it was a happy ending, when, as Rita told her husband when he was expecting to be thanked for helping out with his own kids, “That’s as it should be.”
Sally Hawkins is well cast as Rita, the accidental heroine of the strike; while Miranda Richardson has a couple of unavoidable “Who’s queen?” moments as fiery MP Barbara Castle, and Pete spotted Toby from the West Wing as the Evil Capitalist from America.
Made In Dagenham takes material that is potentially as dreary as the faux-leather upholstery of the Ford seats the women are stitching, and makes it sexy and funny to watch, but left me with a slightly bitter aftertaste. At one point, Castle offers the women a pay rise bringing them up to 75% of the men’s salary, and the fact that it was less than this to start with shocked me. But isn’t it still the case that nearly half a century later, there is a real gender pay gap? And isn’t it still the case that there are men in management who do treat women as decorative tea makers? And didn’t the manufacturers’ threats to move their operations out of the UK come true anyway?
This may have been a feelgood film, but its effects are rather short-lived.