Suffragette: right-to-vote film premieres to 'perfect' protest

Activists' red-carpet stunt brings timely publicity to 'red-blooded' feminist history drama

Carrie Mulligan and Helena Bonham-Carter in the 2015 movie Suffragettes
(Image credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Historical drama Suffragette, which opened the London Film Festival last night, may be a battle-cry for women, but it was interrupted by a real protest by feminist activists.

The red-carpet UK premiere at Odeon Leicester Square was the scene of a protest by more than one hundred activists, who jumped barricades and let off green and purple smoke bombs, before being pushed back.

The group, Sisters Uncut, wanted to bring attention to the cuts to domestic violence services. Stars seemed undeterred by the demonstration, which brought some timely publicity for the screening.

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The Guardian reports that Helena Bonham Carter, who was on the red carpet at the time, said: "I'm glad our film has done something. That's exactly what it's there for." She added that the protest was the "perfect" response to the film.

Suffragette, written by Abi Morgan and directed by Sarah Gavron, centres on the early struggles of the British women's right-to-vote movement of the late 19th and early 20th century and stars Carey Mulligan as a young housewife recruited as an activist.

The protest did nothing to harm the film's reception, with reviewers giving Suffragette a strong vote of confidence.

Robbie Collin in the Daily Telegraph calls the film "hot blooded" and "riveting".

Technically, it's a period drama, says Collin. But don't be fooled by its blue-chip cast and cloak of respectability, he says. It "shakes up this most well-behaved of genres with a surge of civil disobedience" and plenty of "fire in its belly".

Yes, it's a "forthright, heartfelt, red-blooded drama", says Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian. Suffragette is not only a "thoroughly valuable and absorbing film, with some terrifically managed suspense sequences", adds Bradshaw, it also does an important job in reminding us about "human rights so recently and dearly won".

Kate Muir in The Times calls Suffragette a "battle-cry for women" with a "heartrending" performance from Mulligan. "Without an ounce of flounce or make-up, Mulligan gives everything to the part," says Muir.

But the great surprise is Bonham-Carter, adds Muir. After a series of caricatured Miss Havisham parts, it is a joy to see her "in such a powerful, serious role". However, some American critics have been less rapturous in their reviews.

After a screening at Telluride last month, Justin Chang in Variety praised a "flinty" and "affecting" performance by Mulligan, but called Gavron's film "a flatly conventional snapshot of the British women's suffrage movement" whose politics "prove rather more commendable than its artistry".

Suffragette is previewing in London this week and opens for general release on 16 October in the UK.

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