In light of this week’s news of the passing of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, what better opportunity to encourage borrowing the 2011 film The Iron Lady which chronicles important moments in Margaret Thatcher’s personal and political life.
It would seem since her death, the headlines and social media sites have exploded into a predicted mixture of love and loathing for the ex-Prime Minister. Before passing judgement, give it another thought and watch Meryl Streep ignite the passion, energy and devotion she had towards her beliefs and her country.
At the beginning of them film, Thatcher is an elderly woman, visiting her local shops for some milk. She’s been forgotten by society and by her family and since the passing of her husband; the last few years have been peaceful. We watch her as she clears out her late husband’s wardrobe and we become increasingly aware of her struggle with old age and dementia as she coherently talks with her husband whom she imagines is in her room with her. Various flashbacks take place, from her working in her parent’s grocery store as a teenager through her education and election as Prime Minister. Fairly, we are also reminded of the horrendous misgivings her leadership influenced, including, the miner’s strike, the Brixton riots and further conflict in the Falklands. She is shown as a forceful figure of the government whom many disliked but others admired, as an out spoken, strong minded and imperious political leader, who, as age took its toll, lost her grip on her cabinet and was forced to retire as Prime Minister. The film ends as she takes her husband’s clothes to the charity shop, thus saying goodbye to him and letting go of that strand of her memory she so desperately clung to.
The film received a mixed reception from critics, most of who hail Meryl Streep’s acting capabilities yet dismiss the films message and script as a failed attempt at raising political awareness. However, in my opinion, the intentions of the film were not to paint a picture of Thatcher as a sinner or a saint yet to document her life. I agree it wasn’t done particularly well and the message falls flat. The situational element of Thatcher in her old age was obviously a ploy to pull on the heart strings and felt like a desperate attempt at making her seem remorseful, which I truly believe she never was. However, the documentation of her life is done concisely and Meryl Streep encapsulates her personality perfectly, almost encouraging one to take a sympathetic eye over her political mistakes.
It’s definitely worth a watch, if not just for Streep’s outstanding embodiment of Thatcher that is so realistic and so mesmerising it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. She commands the role with the strength and prowess that Thatcher commanded the Houses of Parliament with, which was reason enough for her to hold the Academy Award for acting that year, and as she said at the premier “It’s a look back at power from the point of view of powerlessness” a sad fact that Thatcher struggled with in later life. At the time of her death, Thatcher was just a lonely old woman. Her children weren’t interested in her, her husband had been dead for ten years and the vague and distance memories of her glory days were left echoing in the back of her mind.
Her death was always going to be celebrated by some and the majority of society won’t look back upon her time as our countries leader with fondness, it was a sorrowful time and a lot of British citizens lost their lives at the hands of her errors. What I do think she will be remembered for is her courage and relentlessness, she was a strong figure of parliament, she lead our country with her head held high and she powered through some of Britain’s darkest days in recent years.
Further Reading in the Information Store:
The Iron Lady – DVD ZONE – 791.43I
The Fall and Rise of Margaret Thatcher by Alan Watkins – BOOK ZONE – 330.941082
The Downing Street Years by Margaret Thatcher – BOOK ZONE – 330.9410858