Starring: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Olivia Colman
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Running Time: 104 mins
The Lady is a British film about the life of the first female UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, as she reflects on her triumphs and setbacks at an elderly age whilst coming to terms with the death of her husband.
Either revered or loathed, Margaret Thatcher is undoubtedly one of the most divisive figures of recent British history, but with such controversy comes a fascinating true story. The Iron Lady is an impressive cinematic feat, with strong performances and excellent directing from start to finish, as well as engaging storytelling, but in knowing the truth of the events that unfolded throughout her premiership, it’s tough to ignore the fact that this film hugely misplaces its focus for a less enthralling and historically important story.
However, let’s start on the bright side, with the performances. Never having been a huge advocate of her style, even I can’t deny that this is a very good performance from Meryl Streep. Not straying into overacting too regularly, Streep matches Thatcher’s distinct physical mannerisms perfectly, whilst also brilliantly pulling off the Prime Minister’s relentless strength and determination, making her a fascinating character to follow through this film.
I’m really delighted to say that this is one of my favourite Streep performances, and it’s even better that she’s surrounded by an excellent ensemble cast. As her husband, Jim Broadbent is excellent, and he provides the most effective portrayal of Thatcher’s descent into madness in later life with a surprisingly energetic performance, whilst supporting players in the Conservative government, including Anthony Head, Richard E. Grant and Roger Allam ground the film well in realism, helping hugely in preventing it from straying into an exaggerated account of the history.
Along with the performances, I was really impressed by the directing here too. Apart from being a very aesthetically pleasing film (something that most biographies don’t do so well), Phyllida Lloyd does an excellent job at injecting drama into the scenes focussing on Thatcher at an older age.
Although they’re not the best part of the movie, Lloyd’s ability to create a real sense of desperate unease around Thatcher throughout her later years was hugely effective, and because of that, I felt a far greater sense of importance and drama around her struggles at that age than I was expecting to, which was great to see.
However, there is one thing that really disappointed me about The Iron Lady, and that’s the way it tells the story of Thatcher’s life. Of course, whilst it’s very important to establish what happened before and after her time in office, there is far too little focus on the biggest drama of her premiership, a lot of which is perfect material for a thrilling biopic.
Apart from the fact that it takes a good forty minutes to actually get into the 1980s, having spent the first act almost entirely with an elderly Thatcher, the way that the film skips over some of the most important beats of the period is frustrating to see. It’s an issue that will only come if you know the history, but given how recent and still important it is in Britain, that’s a major problem for many.
Overall, I liked The Iron Lady a lot, thanks to its impressive performances and directing that allowed for an engaging and dramatic watch. However, it’s not the film that really warrants the title of the Margaret Thatcher biopic, due to its misplaced historical focus, and lack of political gusto, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.5.