Murtada here, with a lot of love and respect for Carey Mulligan.
There's a scene late in Suffragette when Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) realizes the devastating enormity of the separation from her son. Mulligan’s face, in a second, flickers many emotions, all so overwhelming that you feel this woman’s pain in your gut. Yet she doesn’t overplay or milk the moment for maximum effect. She remains understated.
This is just one of many moments in the film in which Mulligan transcends her movie and reaches her audience with clarity and without exaggeration. Set in London in 1912, Suffragette tells the story of Watts, her education and indoctrination into the suffrage movement. When the film starts, she is working in a laundry, trying to survive a hard existence alongside her husband and young son. A chance encounter introduces her to the suffragettes and she becomes a member of their embattled movement.
It is through Mulligan that we enter this world. Her character is a composite of many working women who were part of the movement and is built to be the audience surrogate. Her performance is so strong that the plight of these women is not only depicted effectively, but comes alive. I could not control my emotions or my tears. Mulligan’s performance is an emotional marvel and delivered with technical mastery. Her working class English accent is impeccable, her weariness and defeat is visible in her hunched back and heavy walk, her defiance rises to crescendo and is delivered with skillful control of her voice. This is why there are awards for acting.
The film is dividing critics and its reception is unfortunately lukewarm. Some accuse it of being well intentioned but conventional. "Earnest", "formulaic" and "schematic" are words used to describe Suffragette.
But the film derives most of its power from the performance at its center. Mulligan is riding on a wave of acclaim, with co-star Meryl Streep recently praising her:
"I’m in awe of your talent . . . I really am. I’m also in awe of your voice, which is like warm caramel poured over the English language. I applaud your taste in material and how you hold out for stuff. Even when you were young and didn’t have any money, you just did things that mattered. I can’t wait to see what Carey Mulligan will give us next, what new woman she’ll give birth to”.
In her earlier 2015 release Far From the Madding Crowd, Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdeen says "It's my intention to astonish you all". And you do Carey. Always.
Do you think Carey Mulligan in on her way to a second Oscar nomination?