This comedy-drama charts the struggle of one Rita O'Grady (Sally Hawkins) a working-class wife and mother who leads 157 women workers at a Ford Motor plant in Dagenham, England, out on strike when their jobs sewing upholstery on car seats is threatened by the Ford with being declassified as "unskilled labor". The personal difficulties the women face: from their husbands, from the unsympathetic union leadership and, of course, the company brass are all woven together well.
The film is based on a real event and employs television news footage of the time that documents how far working class men, professional board-room types and even supposedly socialist and liberal politicians in general were from accepting the concept of "equal pay for equal work" between the sexes --and how far it still has to go.
The film has an excellent cast and a good feel for the period. Bob Hoskins is especially good in a sympathetic role as a shop steward whose mother had to support her family when he was a kid and there was absolutely no pay equality in the workplace. Rita gets some encourgement from him but in the end its her own voice and personal mettle that comes to the fore when the all-male union bosses try to put the issue on a back burner.
Miranda Richardson appears as Barbara Castle, a powerful Labour Party official of the time who has her own "old boys network" to deal with, headed by the out-of-touch Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, who thinks the women can be put off with pie-in-the-sky promises.
I hope a good deal of this film is actually factual, because it really does show how courage and convictions can change things for the better, even if its only a small initial victory .
One oddity for me is seeing so many people working at a car plant taking bicycles to work. Either that's "veddy British", or Ford was a lousy company to work for there at the time.