Women have been fighting for equal pay rights for as long as industry has been around. Even today studies show that, regardless of legislation that has been passed, women routinely make less than men. Although, in 1968 equal pay seemed all but out of unobtainable
In 1968, at a Ford manufacturing plant in Dagenham, England, a group of women who sewed seat covers for Ford cars went on strike. Their demands were simple. At first they wanted the acknowledgment of their work to be that of skilled workers. Under the current Ford payment structure, sewing seat covers was described as unskilled labor. However, when they found out that they had much more power than they could have ever though possible, the women upped their demands. They went on full strike, demanding that Ford pay them just as much as they paid their male counterparts.
Rita O'Grady (Sally Hawkins) becomes their reluctant leader. No one else stands up to lead them, so this shy woman from the council estate steps up. The best parts of the movie come as Rita, ever timid, is still able to make her point known in meetings full of chauvinistic union leaders and Ford upper management. They balk at the idea that women should get as much as men, and talk down to them like they're not even there. It seems almost overdone at times, but then again, this is the late 60s. These men don't like being talked to on the same level by women, and it's fun to watch them squirm when the ladies let them have it.
The only man on the side of the working women is Albert Passingham (Bob Hoskins), who is part of the factory's management team. He champions the women's cause and helps them push forward behind the scenes. Some of his diatribes seem a little too soap box-ish, but he ends up becoming a lovable ally and character.
It's easy to see where this movie is going, especially if you already know about the real-life strike this was based upon. The most moving bits of the movie aren't that of the women overcoming their obstacles in the working field. Watching Rita mature and become her own person is much more satisfying. Her husband helps her along, but she's able to take the reigns of the family and the workers and guide them both. In a not so subtle ,scene the movie shows Rita's husband struggling at home to make dinner for their children while she tours the country uniting the working women. She walks in one day and he's standing there, in a middle of a messy kitchen. Dirty pans and plates strewn everywhere. We can all nod our heads in agreement and say, "Yes. That's most likely what would happen."
'Made in Dagenham' is a light and breezy film. It doesn't delve too much into the emotional struggles that must have been happening at this time. There is a subplot involving one of the women named Connie (Geraldine James) and her sick husband, but most of the movie is quite humorous and fun. Hawkins makes this movie what it is though. She never becomes an outspoken, charismatic leader. She's much more comfortable out of the spotlight, but she does what needs doing.
Sony delivers a striking video presentation. The 1080p transfer of 'Made in Dagenham', rarely makes a misstep throughout its entire runtime.
Even though this is a light, airy movie, the color palette is a bit cooler. Partly because of the gloomy overcast skies that England is so famous for, and partly because the muted palette gives it that more late 60s early 70s feel. With that said there are some great instances of color here. Reds stand out the most, from the crimson lettering on their picket signs to the bright red dress worn by Rita at the end. Fine details such as the heavy textures on the thick fabrics used during that time period appear fully rendered. Blacks provide wonderful depth and delineated shadows. I did notice a few instances where a couple darker scenes appeared flat and lacked depth. One such instance is when the women emerge from their meeting with the Minister. As they walk out through the tunnel to greet the press, the image appears flat and almost lifeless in that light. Other than that the rest of the movie looks fantastic.
I didn't notice any abnormalities like banding or aliasing either. There are a few stock footage shots from the 60s that are very soft, but that's the nature of the beast. Just another good looking Blu-ray from Sony.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is quite a surprise. You wouldn't expect a talkative movie like this one to be in possession of such an engaging little soundtrack.
When the women first walk in and sit down at their sewing machines I was impressed with the sound design. Their high heels echo in the rear channels as they tromp through the factory floor. Once they sit down a low hum grows louder, calling upon the LFE as it grows louder and louder. The machines are turning on, but truthfully, I thought our garbage truck had arrived. That's how overpowering it was. Dialogue is presented clearly through the front and center channels, making even the toughest accents easy to hear and understand. David Arnold's soundtrack is full of 60s beats that require top-notch fidelity. The sub kicks in fairly often whenever music comes on needing its assistance.
I was pleasantly surprised by this audio mix. Like the women in the film, this one holds quite a few tricks up its sleeve.
'Made in Dagenham' may get a little too heavy-handed at times with its message, but it's a good little movie. Its characters brighten up an otherwise dim working environment and the unlikely heroine, Rita O'Grady, is the reason to watch this one. The video and audio are both handled tremendously by Sony. This one comes recommended.