Kelsey Rettke, Staff Writer
The Iron Lady, directed by Phyllida Lloyd, takes a look at the story of ambitious Brit Margaret Thatcher and her journey to the top. We all know her as Britain’s first woman Prime Minister. She was a strict, frank, and successful, political figure who brought the UK out of international crisis and into a new era. Yet, Margaret Thatcher had a different side. Plagued by hallucinations of her late husband and prone to fits of mental disparity, the Iron Lady—as she was so called by many—was perhaps not so indestructible after all.
Playing Thatcher is two-time Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep. I think it is justified to say that Lloyd and Streep make quite a team, as they both worked together previously on Mamma Mia!
Thatcher’s husband Dennis, played by the lovely and refreshing Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Moulin Rouge!) and daughter Carol (Olivia Colman) fuel a side of the heroine not known by many people. Streep delves deep into the emotional conflicts that Thatcher perhaps unknowingly brought upon herself as a result of her ambition.
While the over-all story contends with the obvious obstacles Thatcher faced—gender stereotypes, class differences—the over-arching theme of the film seems to lie in the hefty price the Iron Lady paid for her success. There is a touching moment in the beginning of the film when the young Thatcher (played by Alexandra Roach) has just been asked by the young Dennis Thatcher, played by Harry Lloyd (Robin Hood, A Game of Thrones) to marry him. She tearfully says yes, but warns him that she cannot—and “will never”—be a wife who just sits at home left to clean the cups. She will not stand by his side while he does all the work, to which he charmingly and jokingly replies that he expects her to do all the work, that being the reason he wants to marry her.
Streep’s performance is nothing short of outstanding. While the movie is full of cameos by wonderful British actors—Anthony Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Merlin), Richard E. Grant (Dracula, Corpse Bride), Roger Allam (The Queen, V for Vendetta) Nick Dunning (The Tudors, Alexander)—it goes without saying that Streep’s performance is the reason to watch this movie. Her conversations with Broadbent’s character are not only tragically touching but sometimes sinister and eerie. He often drops little lines, hinting at her being the blame for their family’s discord, saying that she was never around and “left us all” in the dust while she pursued her career.
Similarly, Colman brings sadness to Streep’s role, as she is forced to watch over her mentally unstable mother and still help her provide that “image of authority” that Thatcher seems to insist on projecting. The film spans a timeline of two days, with the majority of the film consisting of Thatcher reliving much of her past in her head, as the present finds Carol helping her remove Dennis’ things from the house, approximately nine years after his death.
The only thing that seemed to be out-of-place was the music. During montage scenes where Thatcher’s campaign events stemmed across the screen one after another and various political meetings took place, the music was a bad rock song mixed with off color lyrics and pulsating beats. It just seemed like it belonged in an action movie or something within a more modern context, not a historical biopic about a twentieth century political figure.
The film is peppered with famous quotes and real-life images brought to the big screen—her famous citation of “The Prayer of Saint Francis” upon her arrival at 10 Downing Street for the first time, her refusal to stand down to opposing leaders in the house of Parliament during sessions, her strict and utter bluntness to her staff as Prime Minister—the real heart lies in Streep’s portrayal of the older Thatcher, the vulnerable Iron Lady.
There is an unmistakable tragedy in the irony of Thatcher’s life. She couldn’t “mother” her children in the best way, due to her job. She lost many friends along the way to her greatness, with the first leader of her campaign assassinated by a bomb before she made it to office. She ultimately resigned due to by general public disproval and distaste. She was loved in the beginning, but it did not last.
The film predominantly reflects the darker side of Thatcher’s famous life; the struggles she overcame as a woman and as a lower-class no-name to become one of the most revered political figures in the world, the personal sacrifices she made, and the place she resides in now.
I would give this movie 4 out of 5 stars. It’s breathtaking and casts a harsh truth on the thin line between too much ambition and “wanting to do something rather than just to be someone.” Just try to ignore the music.