The Academy has recently put itself in a position where it has to visibly progress forwards in terms of the films and individuals it chooses to recognize. The industry is also in a position to move progressively forwards in terms of the types of stories it affords people in gender, sexual and racial minorities, so we’re heading into a crucial period for the film and awards industry. The Danish Girl could become the first film about a transgender individual nominated for Best Picture, but being directed by Tom Hooper and starring a potentially showboating Eddie Redmayne are reasons for concern. Freeheld and Carol are lesbian-focused dramas likely to hit at the height of the season. And Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette is representing a major turning point in the feminist movement, be it one that we have a habit of taking for granted today.
Given how ambivalent some people are about the choice to vote, the importance of films about people earning the right to vote shouldn’t be underestimated. Selma was a vigorous portrait of the 1960s civil rights movement, and there’s no denying that Suffragette is focusing on a white, middle class feminist movement. There’s admittedly a scarcity of films focusing on ethnic minorities in the cards for this Oscar season, which is perhaps a little off-topic, but it’s worth noting that all of the film industry’s representation issues won’t be cleared up this year.
Still, it’s important if this ends up a strong year for films about women – the last Best Picture nominee to focus on a female lead was Million Dollar Baby, and the last to not also feature an even more prominent male lead was Chicago – and Suffragette is one of the few directed by a woman. The first trailer certainly shows off the elements that are in the films favor, chief among them being Carey Mulligan, a vigorous presence whenever she appears, hot off of recent hit Far From the Madding Crowd. This promises to be even more of a showcase of her talents, showing a transformation from reluctant conformist to radical activist.
I do wince at a couple of aspects. The wholemeal style of British filmmaking can be a limiting one, but Gavron seems to approaching it with a distinct sense of style. I’m cautious of any performance by Meryl Streep nowadays, since I’m worried her acting abilities are no longer tethered to this earth, and a film about the womens’ suffrage movement needs feel lived in and urgent. And, of all things, I’m worried Alexandre Desplat will turn in a score indistinguishable from the kind he did for The King’s Speech, The Imitation Game or, heaven forbid, this year’s own The Danish Girl.
Overall, though, it looks very promising and potentially inspiring, not merely inspirational. Check out the trailer below and let us know your thoughts.