Back in 1960 there was this working class film called I’m All Right Jack and it doesn’t really bear any semblance to Made in Dagenham except that they both are 60s period pieces and involve a conflict between labor and management. I must’ve seen Jack over 30-years ago at some rep theater yet I cannot forget the image of Peter Sellers in one of those three-wheeled cars. Likewise, Made in Dagenham, a current film from director Nigel Cole ($5 A Day, A Lot Like Love) contains some chipper imagery that stays with the viewer, even if that image is the dashing color of Sally Hawkins mini-skirt.
Because Made in Dagenham is a bright colorful film set within the confines of the cold and colorless world of a Ford car factory in the UK. The plot concerns an actual strike where women walked off the job because of the disparity between women’s and men’s wages. This is a film about bonding and sticking to one’s ideals. Through a well-paced progression of worker’s habits and newsreel clips we get a true feeling for the community these women inhabit. And they’re all dressed in a cool swinging 1968 look, so even their missteps and learning curves have style. When Hawkins is approached by the wife of one of the auto execs instead of a confrontation we discover that all the femmes, regardless of bank account, are on the same side regarding the division of labor and a sleek dress.
There are moments in the film where you may feel that the odds are overwhelming and the women are destined to second place in the race to equality. But Made in Dagenham is as adamant as Norma Rae when it comes to achieving what’s right.
– Michael Bergeron