Jobsworth Goes to the Movies

Last week being half-term and all, and with the Junior Jobsworths being packed off to their grandparents at Cold Comfort Farm, Mrs J and I went to the cinema.  Not just the little arts centre which shows the odd worthy foreign language film, but the proper cinema with 20 screens and 5 flavours of popcorn, none of them edible.

We saw “Made in Dagenham” and I went to see it, dear reader, just for you.

For those who haven’t seen it or don’t know anything about it, it has a link with employment law and the (now defunct) Equality Act 1970, which I’ve written about before.  The film tells the story of the women sewing machinists at Ford’s massive Dagenham factory who went on strike in 1968 to secure equal pay for the skilled work they did sewing the trim and seats for Cortinas, Escorts and Anglias.

It’s a compelling story as well and the film brings out the deep unfairness in gender based pay inequality well.  It’s a film that is long on emotion and short on hard facts but, hey, this is prime time entertainment.  And in entertaining it succeeds; I didn’t look at my watch once throughout and that is always my objective test for a film.  The opening credits of the factory and the voice-over about the size of the factory  and the numbers of cars it was producing put me in mind of the opening parts of The Full Monty – similar style and approach.  This film, though good, is not up there with the Full Monty: it lacks the sustained humour and, maybe, some of the sentimentality of the earlier film.  It doesn’t want for a cracking cast: Geraldine James, Bob Hoskins, Rosamund Pike, Rupert Graves and in Sally Hawkins, a fine lead actor.

There were some irritations though.  The plot manipulation to bring Rita O’Grady, played by Hawkins, into contact with Lisa Hopkins, Pike’s character, was far-fetched.  In the story the two ladies literally bump into each other at their sons’ school to complain about a brutal teacher.  O’Grady leads the strike, Lisa is married to a senior Ford executive involved in trying to break the strike.  The purpose: to allow Pike’s character to tell O’Grady that although she has a first class Oxford degree her husband treats her like an idiot.

That leads on to my central gripe: the film is two-dimensional. Miranda Richardson does a good turn as Barbara Castle but her two male advisers might have been based on Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee.    All the women are portrayed as put upon and naive, at least until they go on strike, whereas the men are portrayed as lazy buffoons (apart perhaps from Bob Hoskins who does his lovable Cockney geezer routine).

When I pointed this out to Mrs J she simply said “So? That’s as it is”.

Apart from that though it is a good, entertaining film and I would recommend going to see it.  It’s got good pace, tells a powerful story and has a soundtrack that will have you humming along.

Michael Scutt, Employment Solicitor 

Employment solicitor with Crane and Staples, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. Blogger & writer. I like cycling, cricket, football and history.