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Film Review: The Iron Lady

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No. No. No.

We learn a little about Thatcher’s struggle with the I.R.A for example, but are denied an understanding of the underlying context. Heath’s battle with the unions is touched upon, the Miner’s strike is not. Economic unrest is reduced to a few angry proles pounding the window of the ministerial car; that’s the film’s comment on Thatcher’s attitude to unemployment and her fight with industry. Geoffrey Howe’s resignation has its European antecedents stripped out. This process of omission and simplification continues from the first frame to the last. Major figures in the Thatcher story are reduced to ciphers or oblivion.

Reasoning that the detail of politics and the consequences of Thatcher’s policies would bore or confuse audiences, Morgan opts for shorthand, clunky metaphors and symbolism. One astonishing scene has Thatcher being driven around by daughter Carol. Breaking from a discussion on going for the leadership, Thatcher, noting their route, tells her, “we must go to the right” and that, in a sentence, is the film’s comment on Thatcher’s stewardship of the Tory party. It opens with the frail Mrs T being nearly pushed aside at a shop counter by an idiotic city type on his mobile phone. He talks about selling. That’s the film’s comment on the society Thatcherism informed. Incisive stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.

The impression you’re left with is of two filmmakers who have failed to engage with, or perhaps don’t understand, why the subject of their piece is worthy of a filmic treatment. Meryl Streep’s performance truly is transformative and deserves recognition but this is a slight and unforgivably apolitical exploration of Thatcher’s life and career and consequently it must be judged to be a huge disappointment. There’s an epic film to be made about Margaret Thatcher. With luck, one day we’ll get to see it.

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Directed by: Phyllida Lloyd

Country: UK/France

Year: 2011

Running Time: 105 mins


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