Film Review – The Iron Lady

The Iron Lady (PG)

Directed by: Phyllida Lloyd

Starring: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Anthony Head

Two stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Showcasing a person’s life can be difficult. Taking decades worth of moments and stringing them together in a thematic way for the purpose of a film narrative forces us to make unreasonable leaps. Going from childhood, to teen years to adulthood in just a handful of scenes can be jarring. The best are the ones that explore one moment that shaped the subject.

While according to The Iron Lady, there were three significant eras to delve into to see what made Margaret Thatcher tick, it makes one grave mistake by making us sit through her latter years as her mind deteriorates. With her class struggles and rise to her role as Prime Minister amidst political and social unrest, why have us endure her talking to the ghost of her dead husband for such long stretches of time?

As Maggie’s (a heavily aged Meryl Streep in movie magic makeup) mind crumbles from the onset of dementia she spends her time making breakfast and chatting to her husband Denis (Jim Broadbent) who actually passed away years ago. She clings to her past, reluctant to get rid of Denis’ clothes, despite her daughter’ urges.

As her mind plays tricks on her it also wanders to moments in her past, like when she was a young and wide-eyed grocer’s daughter (Alexander Roach) trying to break into politics. Her struggles, despite her idealistic attitude to break into what was essentially seen as men’s business. And how she dealt with social and economic unrest in Britain.

While at times, the story of a woman breaking through the glass ceiling is alternately fascinating and familiar (how many of these have we seen before?) the sequences of her in her later years are clunky. Exploring the effects of dementia seems like a completely separate issue, particularly when dealing with the story of this woman’s life. It often comes off as a misjudged technique to take us back several years for a few flashbacks.

Meryl Streep is, as always, a powerhouse and the sole reason to continue watching. Biographical films are difficult but this is possibly the worst cock-up in cinema history with some dreadfully mishandled moments. If Thatcher were in her grave, she would be spinning in it.

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