(Written for Rough Cut Reviews)
Directed by Mamma Mia’s Phyllida Lloyd, British biopic The Iron Lady captures the portrait of Margaret Thatcher, portrayed primarily by Meryl Streep, in her formative and early political years, before going on to serve as the longest-serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of the 20th Century.
The film begins near the end, with a fragile Thatcher dominating the screen. Dementia has her in its grip, and her hallucinations with late husband Denis Thatcher (Jim Broadbent) are slowly weaving their way into her unstable mind. Thatcher has aged, and scenes of her pottering around the house, looking lost and distracted, turn this once popular and powerful figure into a vulnerable and lonely human being.
Thatcher’s rise from colossus to recluse is told through her mind, wrestling with fuddled flashbacks to the dim and distant. Alexandra Roach plays a young Margaret Thatcher, a Lincolnshire teen who thrives on nurturing high ambitions in life. Working her way through the political food chain, Thatcher’s rise in popularity and power in a male-dominated workforce showcases her better years within the film, before the picture enters her Prime Ministerial battleground of the 1970s and 1980s, which sees the Thatcher figure become problematical.
From what until this point has been one women’s ambition to reach the top, the rest of Thatcher’s political antics sees the nation plunged into violent strife and lasting antagonism. It is here where British Citizens are reminded of Thatcher’s controversial decisions, and is where the popularity of the women everyone wanted to see succeed takes a turn in the opposite direction. As Thatcher’s power is lost and she is forced to resign as Prime Minister in 1990, the film takes us back into her crumbling present.
Whilst to many the Margaret Thatcher era is a bitterly divisive one, as a viewer it is hard not to show sympathy for the fragile character Streep portrays so well on-screen. It is these scenes that add emotion and colour to the film which without, would run as a typical biopic that would leave the perceptions of a powerful figure untouched.
The Iron Lady has sparked controversy in Britain, dividing opinions as sharply as the “Iron Lady herself did. Whilst some suggest the film does not do justice to Thatcher’s toughness, others believe the film is a too soft portrayal of a “terrifying” figure. As dividing as the film may be, The Iron Lady has gone on to scoop a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, and has more recently been nominated for a BAFTA award and two Academy Awards also.
Watch the trailer for The Iron Lady below: