This is a story that needs to be told.  So say the cast in the DVD extras for Nigel Cole’s Made in Dagenham and they are absolutely right.  The story of the 1968 women’s strike at the Ford plant in Dagenham is an unexpected gem and one that you will not often stumble upon.  It is well scripted, acted with dignity by the sometimes luminous cast, understated, paced, passionate and righteous, but above all enjoyable.

In the midst of the social revolution of the decade the women machinists piecing and completing the seat covers for the cars Ford produced in Dagenham are (pardon the pun) being stitched up.  The Ford management wants to pay them a wage as unskilled workers to save costs.  The women are encouraged by Albert Passingham (Bob Hoskins) to fight for better pay.  Lead by Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins, An Education, Never Let Me Go) and Connie (Geraldine James, Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderland) the workers decide to strike, an action which escalates as management reacts aggressively ignoring the women’s original requests.  As equal pay becomes the focus for the striking women the Ford management, their male colleagues and the unions become increasingly mortified.

What was fun about this story and the way it was told is the detail that director Nigel Cole chooses to include: the women work stripped to the waist to bear the heat and mercilessly tease the young male messenger who brings their pay packets; the gloom of striking is made bearable by the sharing of small funds and vegetables among the striking women; Rita’s uncertainty in becoming the unwitting face of pay parity; the lack of pomp or pretence in the speeches she gives and they integrity of the message.  All these make a solid film, which in some ways translates better in the comfort of one’s own home on DVD.

There are two scenes in the film which, for me, make buying this for your collection and absolute must: the wonderful Rosemund Pike’s Lisa Hopkins while beautifully dressed in sixties couture telling her suffocating husband to shut up and Rita’s own confrontation with a husband whose support is waning, reminding us all that women’s rights are not privileges and regrettably also not something that five decades later we have been capable enough to bring about.

Do not worry if you do not feel the stirrings of feminism calling as the film’s DVD release day looms large.  The story is robust enough to be engaging and the direction maintains the pace of the action that provides sufficient glimpses into the working lives of these women and the infrastructure around them without ramming their point of view down your throat.

DVD Special Features

  • Commentary By Director Nigel Cole
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Outtakes,
  • Made In Dagenham – Behind The Scenes Featurette
  • Theatrical Trailer

Made in Dagenham is available to buy or rent today.