Loosely based on the real events, Made in Dagenham sees Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins) positioned into a position of responsibility during contract negotiations with trade unions during the late 1960s. She suddenly finds herself leading her colleagues in a strike, influenced by floor manager Albert (Bob Hoskins) and demanding equal pay to their male colleagues. The resulting strike pushes public sympathy as well as the emotional and professional relationships between the women and the rest of British society.
There have been certain liberties taken with the truth, as you might expect, but Made in Dagenham clearly takes a two-pronged approach to the subject matter of women’s rights. Firstly, the film aims to give an overview on attitudes toward women at the time, as a sort of starter course for those just learning about society in the 1960s. Secondly, it aims to entertain, with a sweet and almost fable-like approach to its story telling.
Everyone in Made in Dagenham is a vague caricature of a real person, but luckily the performances and script are solid enough to keep them entertaining. Hawkins is the epitome of frail naivity and stoic, steely determination, while Andrea Riseborough plays it close to the edge with a sexually liberated, outspoken and sweary worker called Brenda. Alongside these two are the standouts of Made in Dagenham: Miranda Richardson, fabulous as the firebrand female politician and Hoskins as the bashful and fairly liberal-minded conscience of the group.
The only roles, which fail to interest, or even make sense are Rosamund Pike as the down-trodden Cambridge-educated wife of the Ford employee dealing with the negotiations and Jaime Winstone as the ˜model’ wannabe Sandra. Both characters feel light on depth and shoe-horned into a plot that already struggles not to become farcical.
Just when you think Made in Dagenham is going to descend into a saccharine sweet affair, there are some stellar scenes that drag some much needed reality to proceedings. What’s left then is a British feel-good film that tinkers with the truth in an attempt to cover a serious point in as light a way as possible.