Forget what the poster suggests: Suffragette is not a Meryl Streep movie. She appears, briefly, as one of history's most famous activists, Emmeline Pankhurst, but this film focuses on ordinary women
Maud (Carey Mulligan) is a young mother who just wants to earn her wages at a laundry, then go home and take care of her son and husband (Ben Whishaw). When she sees her co-worker Violet (a riveting Anne-Marie Duff) smashing shop windows as part of a protest for the right to vote for women, she is intrigued, but keeps her distance. She doesn't want trouble.
But the more she learns about her lack of rights, and politicians' refusal to believe women are capable of making calm, rational choices, like who to vote for, the more involved Maud becomes in the suffragette movement.
It's amazing/depressing to realise how few rights and how little respect women had - in the West! - 100 years ago. It's even more depressing when you realise the rather open-ended finale is a reminder that this is still the case for so many women around the world.
Mulligan's portrayal of Maud's transformation from a naive, put-upon young woman willing to toe the line, to a major player in the fight for the right to be heard is thrilling (slightly forced Cockney accent aside). Helena Bonham Carter shines as a slightly older, middle-class pharmacist (who would have been a doctor if she'd been a man) who stage-manages many of the demonstrations. Streep's brief appearance serves both as further proof of her eminence as an actor, and of how crucial she felt this movie was.
This is a beautifully shot, gorgeously designed, pacy film, with stunning performances. But above all, it's an important reminder of how difficult a fight these women faced at the beginning of the last centruy - and how widespread inequality remains in so many communities around the world.