A Portrait of Margaret Thatcher: “The Iron Lady” (2011)

  • Directed by Phyllida Lloyd
  • Screenplay by Abi Morgan

“The Iron Lady” as a title for the portrayal of Britain’s longest-running Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in itself is ironic. Viewing through the eyes of someone who did not experience the conservative society of the 1980’s the film presents an image of a strong-willed yet sympathetic feminist icon during the political aspects of the film. However the majority focuses on Mrs Thatcher’s mental decline in recent years; therefore is it a story of an elderly woman and her family coming to terms with mental illness rather than the achievements and mistakes of one of the most influential leaders in history? Although what can be said is Meryl Streep who takes on the main role does a stunning job at re-creating the 2oth Century’s most loved yet most hated political figure in appearance and in mannerisms. As a protagonist she engages the audience in a wave of empathy as she recalls her days in parliament and how she got there while struggling with day to day life. The fact that controversy has been generated surrounding the film is no surprise as opinion has always accumulated a divide among the public when it comes to Thatcher. Its fair to say and understandable that her real life children Carol and Mark were against the film’s production describing it as a “left-wing fantasy”. Perhaps a film in general on Margaret Thatcher has been released too soon, taking into consideration the woman is suffering with dementia to this day does ignite a sense of disrespect. Despite this it was an interesting approach at portraying the time through Thatcher’s perspective. Many films such as Shane Meadows “This is England” (2006) showed how the government policy’s and war affected the working classes therefore in terms of viewing history it proved insightful and different.

The main issues as in the Miners strike and the Falklands War are touched on depicting Thatcher’s reactions, one of the most poignant scenes being where she decided to write to all the casualties families of the Falklands. Due to the main focus being on Thatcher’s later decline the political issues weren’t given a lot of depth. This acted as a shame for the film-makers as concentrating on the impact of these historical events and how she dealt with them as Prime Minister had the potential to create something much more powerful rather than personal.  The use of the real footage from the time did provide an impact, reminding the audience of the reality of what was happening and adding grit to the piece. At times by showing her vulnerable side it was as if the motivation of the film-makers was an attempt at endearing her to the public after all these years. An alternative approach to the narrative with removing the flashbacks would have been effective taking the audience through the beginning of her life, what led to her ambition, her time in parliament then closing on her resignation allowing a fascinating depiction of 1980’s history.

For what “The Iron Lady” does convey is an emotional story with a thin historical backdrop, however depicting the personal nature of a human being’s mental state especially the hallucinations of her late husband Dennis (Played by Jim Broadbent) made an uncomfortable watch. Its strength lay in the way it acted as a vehicle for feminism through the message of never giving up and fighting for your beliefs. Thatcher was brave to stand up and fight to get where she wanted to be in a male-dominated world and succeeding. The film does overall give out a mixed reaction through being interesting on one hand and distasteful on the other, but there is no denying Meryl Streep’s performance was touching and engaging and ultimately carries the film.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

4 Responses to “A Portrait of Margaret Thatcher: “The Iron Lady” (2011)”

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  3. This movie was HORRIBLE. If I hadn’t been with friends I would have walked out. Saying it was disrespectful is mild to the point of being a joke. Sure, Meryl Streep did a great job of imitating her voice and mannerisms and whoever did the makeup should win an academy award. But to spin this from her dementia ( including Hollywood added hallucinations) demeans a woman who set a blazing path for other women to come. Both politically and in society. I have never been so livid as I was after walking out of a movie. The facts of her life would have been engrossing enough without throwing in the dementia crap. The movie producers should be ashamed.

    • Its fair to say that the film was marketed wrong, I was surprised and appalled at how much it focused on her dementia over the political side. Many have found it an incredibly difficult watch. The filmmakers appeared to be sensationalising Margaret Thatcher’s recent mental decline rather than telling a historical piece. Thank you for your feedback was interesting to read.

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