Made in Dagenham

The saying goes ‘It’s a man’s world’.  Never was that truer than in the 1960’s where the social and sexual revolution began to growl against this mantra.  An event which helped it along was the 1968 Ford sewing machinist strike in England.  Whilst perhaps a small mark on the equality radar, its ramifications were felt for generations.  Made in Dagenham examines this in a somewhat clichéd style although its charms shines as bright as the women’s show of strength.

In 1968 Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins) works as a sewing machinist at the British based Dagenham assembly plant.  Along with her female co-workers, she becomes tired of the blatant discrimination shown by her bosses.  With the help of Union Shop Steward Albert (Bob Hoskins), they go on strike in order to achieve fair and equal pay.  Fighting for their rights, little would they know their actions would capture the attention of prominent politician Barbara Castle (Miranda Richardson) whose help would lead to a lasting and landmark legislation.

British television and film has always had a good handle on stories relating to the class system.  Made in Dagenham is no different as it proves the adage ‘a leader is not born but made’.  Rita’s ability in stirring her colleagues to discard apathy in favour of action galvanises her personal convictions.  What’s interesting is how these deeds have a flow on affect throughout their lives and the country with the ingrained sexist attitudes of male hierarchy the main barrier between victory and defeat.

Thankfully it avoids the trap of using a pop soundtrack as a crutch to create the era and nor does it slide into a sickly sweet ‘feel good’ vibe.  Whilst there’s a formula at play with its mix of comedy and drama delivered a bit too self-consciously to fully work, it makes a fair effort in creating genuine characters and grounding itself in reality.  You care what happens to them with the clout of a political party showing the convictions of their beliefs an unfortunate rare sight.

While big business may have eventually won by automating much of their work-force, Made in Dagenham focuses on a period where people actually stood for something.  Questioning instead of accepting what’s dished out, this 60’s parable is one we could still learn from today.

Rating out of 10:  6


Paranormal Activity 2

It can’t be said the makers of the Paranormal Activity franchise have had a difficult time of it.  Spending the minimum amount of money for maximum profit, their tactics have worked wonders.  All they’ve needed are some cameras, actors and houses with creaky doors and a horror hit was born.  The sequel continues this ‘no frills thrills’ motif with the easily adaptable concept given another spin on the money generating shock-o-metre.

When a family experience what they think is a series of break-ins, they install security cameras to catch the culprit.  Watching the footage, they discover a paranormal entity is wreaking havoc.  Learning it holds a sinister familial connection and is after their newly born son, they attempt to banish the evil spirit. Refusing to surrender and ramping up its reign of terror, the vengeful ghost becomes the bane of their increasingly fractured existence.

Given that the first entry was a poor effort with laughable acting and few frights, the only way for this series to go was up.  Fortunately the sequel is more engaging due to its expanded premise and additions to its mythology.  What seemed vague in the first film is made clearer with the family’s horrific experiences connecting with previous events.  This adds interest to an otherwise sparse narrative relying a little too heavily on its ‘noises in the night’ atmospherics. 

It would have been great had it been more creative in generating tension – even if some scenes are quite effective.  Tod William doesn’t so much direct as edit proceedings with the multiple-camera set up becoming somewhat tiresome.  Although better than the single camera use from the first movie, the repetition of ‘cut and paste’-type visuals gets old very quickly with constantly shaking cameras often showing more personality than the people it films.

Given its small budget, Paranormal Activity 2 will most likely make another fortune.  It’s a pity it will as its lack of inventiveness sets a bad precedent for future scary films where genuine frights are usually the most memorable.

Rating out of 10:  4