Made In Dagenham, directed by Nigel Cole (Calendar Girls), is set in Dagenham in the heart of Essex. It is a dramatization of the 1968 Ford Motor Plant strike which changed the future for working women worldwide. In a country which was at the heart of the swinging sixties, the outer suburbs still retained 1950’s values, where the women stood by their men.

There were 187 women employed at the plant as machinists, sewing seat covers and door panels. The labour was considered unskilled, but it was in fact quite specialized and the women were encouraged by an old union hand, Albert Passingham (Bob Hoskins) to take industrial action to claim equal pay. Why was he so supportive? We find out that he was brought up by a single mother who had a difficult time bringing up her kids on a lesser wage.

On a hot, spring day a strike is called, most of the girls on the factory floor had stripped down to their underwear, because of the lack of air-conditioning. The shop steward, Connie (Geraldine James – who looks uncannily like a younger Vanessa Redgrave) and Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins) are chosen to represent the women to push for better working entitlements. Rita stands up to the union and demands that their voices be heard.

The story zips along, interspersing original footage to re-enforce the drama. The industrial action brings Ford to its knees and the company sends out their Michigan representative, an almost unrecognizable Robert Schiff, to sort out the problem. However, it escalates and ends up going all the way to the office of Barbara Castle (Miranda Richardson) who was the Employment Secretary in the Labour Government under Harold Wilson. The scenes with Richardson are gutsy and she gives no quarter.

The story covers issues dealing with class and discrimination in a balanced manner. There is a nice side story going on at Rita’s son’s school. She has to stand up to a bullying teacher, Mr Clarke (Andrew Lincoln) who believes that kids living on council estates don’t know how to behave properly. She also forms a good gal-pal relationship with Lisa (Rosamund Pike) who is married to one of the Ford executives and recognizes the injustice towards women in the workplace.

If you like competent British drama, then this is worth checking out. The period is faithfully captured, the performances are all solid and the story is one that needed to be told. It is a sobering thought when you realize that it was not really that long ago when women were so maligned. There have been changes, but it is still a mans’ world and tales like this remind us that, ‘…it (the world) wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman…’


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Geraldine James
Sally Hawkins
Miranda Richardson
Bob Hoskins

Nigel Cole

Bill Ivory


M / 113 minutes

October 28, 2010
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