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The Iron Lady

Directed by Phyllidia Lloyd

UK, 2011

Cornerhouse, 7 January 2012

The Iron Lady

Although Meryl Streep’s central performance is certainly remarkable, taken as a whole this film seems superficial and false.

There’s a whistle-stop tour through Thatcher’s time in office but certain key events – the miners’ strike, the Toxteth riots, the Bruges speech – are absent.  The scene where Maggie is undergoing voice-training is rather too close to a scene in The King’s Speech.  Let’s be charitable and call this homage.  When Mrs. Thatcher first enters the Commons, we see her bare feet in high-heeled shoes, a contrast to the men’s highly polished black brogues.  A nice touch, but one thinks it likely that, even as a young woman, she always would have worn tights.

It is clear that there’s an intended irony arising from Lady Thatcher’s fragility in old age and the given epithet of The Iron Lady, but are there really grounds for believing that she speaks to her dead husband?  And what is the point of making a film about an actual person, if you are going to invent details about their life?  Either stick to the facts or have a fictional character and invent any damn thing.  These kind of films are infuriating because they’re neither one thing nor another.

A disappointing film, then, but it was interesting to see Mrs. Thatcher in the Commons and to realise that this has never been part of our collective memory.  None of the public saw her when she spoke there.