The Iron Lady
(M) Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent
Powerhouse actress Meryl Streep gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the controversial, first and only female British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, in Phyllida Lloyd’s biopic The Iron Lady.
Being a twenty-something, ignorant member of “Gen Y”, I had little knowledge of Margaret Thatcher, both historically and politically, and my editor was understandably hesitant to send me to review this film.
Thanks to my “extensive” research (Wikipedia, YouTube and the IMDB forums — the latter of which was summed up nicely by a user’s comment: “the amount of hatred on this board is unreal!”) I managed to gain a nice overview.
As a result, I went to the film with some expectation. However, its introduction caught me off guard. I had formed a picture in my mind of an influential, controversial leader in control of herself and others and was met instead with a depiction of the lady the way she is now: elderly, suffering from the early onset of Alzheimer’s, and no longer powerful or relevant. It was effectively disarming, causing me to set any other expectations aside.
The Iron Lady chronicles Margaret Thatcher’s life and work through a series of flashbacks; memories experienced by the now old and widowed Thatcher. Haunted by her late husband Denis (played by the brilliantly eccentric Jim Broadbent) she must learn to let go of the past. The slightly disjointed style of filming reflects Margaret’s confused, elderly mind. Thankfully, the transitions between past and present are clear.
Regardless of your political opinions, Thatcher’s rise to power is undeniably fascinating and it is hard not to admire her courage and determination. The scene in which she is shown as a singular woman among countless men, being jostled in the halls of parliament is particularly powerful; conveying that power often comes at the cost of loneliness. A great deal of empathy is employed, though not necessarily sympathy. This is ideal.
Biopics can be tricky because it is impossible to accurately depict living persons without bias.
This film makes no attempt to apologise for or explain Thatcher’s immovable character. For better or for worse, this is the way she is, and was. Streep as Margaret delivers this viewpoint impeccably: “Yes the medicine is harsh; but the patient requires it.”
However, regret and loneliness are prevalent throughout; and husband Denis’ parting shot (“you’re going to be fine on your own, you always have been”) sums up the sacrifices one must make to fight for what one believes in.