Made in Dagenham

Film, Comedy
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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Made in Dagenham
Nigel Cole directed ‘Calendar Girls’, and this is a similarly raucous but polite, women-out-of-water tale about the female machinists who went on strike at Ford Dagenham in the late 1960s and whose dispute was a milestone on the way to the Equal Pay Act of 1970. The film’s original ‘oo-er missus’ title was ‘We Want Sex’, a gag about a slogan on a half-unfurled protest banner, which gives some idea of the populist approach of the filmmakers in remembering this key moment in our labour history.

You might worry where all this populism is heading: it’s not exactly ‘Carry On Cortina’, but when an early scene give us a room full of workers stripping down to their bras to combat the heat, and Bob Hoskins enters the shopfloor covering his eyes in mock shame, you half expect to see Bernard Bresslaw pinching Hattie Jacques’s bottom. But don’t be put off. Mostly, the film sticks with the story at its heart, moulding and tempering it with comedy and the odd heartbreak. It’s about as political as the women it portrays, who became activists almost by accident alongside their everyday lives. Billy Ivory’s script is compassionate, a little overloaded with sub-plots and not always subtle, but often moving and good on the detail of professional and family camaraderie and their flipsides: antagonism and resentment.

The main thrust of the film is the gradual, reluctant politicisation of Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins), a fictional composite of various women. Her fellow workers decide that Rita, a quiet woman, married to fellow Ford worker Eddie (Daniel Mays) and mother of two kids, should represent them with their bosses. Events take over, and the next thing we know Rita is addressing the TUC and marching on Parliament. Somehow this convinces, and it’s down to Hawkins, who is excellent at conveying Rita’s growing confidence and new awareness of her cause. She is the film’s anchor. Her performance is serious but fun, see-sawing between boldness and trepidation.

‘Made in Dagenham’ balances a broad tone with a keen eye for domestic and workplace politics. Its attention span is limited as it wanders off down romantic, comic or tragic byways, some of them, such as the story of Connie (Geraldine James) and her depressed husband, George (Roger Lloyd-Pack), more successful than others – such as an awkward scene involving aspiring model Sandra (Jaime Winstone) and a David Bailey-like snapper (Matt King). Politically it’s light, but its mission is honest. It highlights an important episode in a style that you imagine would appeal to the same women it honours.

By: Dave Calhoun


Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday October 1 2010
Duration: 112 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Nigel Cole
Screenwriter: Billy Ivory
Cast: Matt King
Jaime Winstone
Rosamund Pike
Sally Hawkins
Bob Hoskins
Miranda Richardson

Average User Rating

4.1 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:2
  • 4 star:10
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
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The Man on the Street

I am so behind the times. I was sent the DVD because the film has been turned into a musical, and its heading to The Adelphi. Well bring it on. Enjoyed the film enormously. So sad that I remember the names, the black and white TV and the industrial unrest of the time. So well captured. Let's hope the musical does the same.

John Cooper

Made in Dagenham successfully conveys the right period feel of 1968 . . . Set in glorious summer weather the high rise flats and council estates of industrial Dagenam are given a rose-tinted glow, and with the likeable Sally Hawkins as the striking ` Cinderella`, the film is assuredly feelgood. At the end of the film the women get their equal pay and everyone is happy. . . This was the golden age of trade union militancy, which later degenerated into the `Winter of Discontent` of 1979 and it needed Margaret Thatcher to come along and point out that the problem with socialism was that `eventually one runs out of other people's money `. .. Still, the agitprop in NIcel Cole's film is tastefully subdued, and one is struck by the fact that Rosamund's Pike's Oxford honours graduate is more interesting than the the gallery of male stereotypes which the film employs to underpin its feminist intentions. In fact, this is indicative of the film's simplistic outlook, and its failure to deal with the complex class tensions which erupted in Britain in the the late 1960's . However on the plus side, the film does manage to portray the `innocence` which characterized the idealistic zeal of Trade Union reform which ran amok in the 70's and early 80's culminating in the defeat of the miners. ( ironically at the hands of a `woman` the iron lady herself, Margaret Thatcher.) In this film, the iron lady is the indominitable Barbara Castle . . I suppose it's diffucult for post- Spice Girls generations to understand how it was for women in the early 60's and one must give the film some credit for its efforts in this respect. . . .


I worked as an apprentice at Fords River Plant a few years after this historic moment. Entering the 'trim' shop as we called it was not for the faint hearted! The attention to detail of the locations especially River Plant and the Social Club is very impressive. This is a very enjoyable film with good casting and a subject worthy of a full length feature. I agree with the TO review it addresses the subject in a populist way but still gets the story told. Perhaps my only criticism is the way the Ford management are portraid as rather hapless males, which is a little misleading as most were fairly hard headed such was the nature of the Ford structure at bthe time.

hungry mind

Brilliant from start to finish. Well cast well scripted film held my attention from start to finish. Wish all films were like this

hungry mind

Brilliant from start to finish. Well cast well scripted film held my attention from start to finish. Wish all films were like this


This film is in the tradition of Best of British......films such as The Full Monty, Billy Elliott, Kinky Boots, and, of course, Calendar Girls. If you like amusing, yet also intelligent, well-scripted, directed & acted films, then go to see this one. No, it is NOT a "chick flick" - it's good fun, and ahould appeal to many. See it !


I really enjoyed this film a simple british true story with amazing acting and attention to detail recreating the era and with a rocking soundtrack. I agree this should be covered in history lessons I was too young at the time to know that these women were responsible for helping to change the law regarding equal pay for women. I felt like cheering at the end one of the best feelgood films I've seen in years.. Well done to all concerned.. Highly recommended.


This is a simple tale of the 1960s/70s that will make you feel good when you come out of the cinema. Its not too much to ask surely but so many films dont even manage much to ask is it but few films these days seem to do this. There is a famous cast of actors to recognise in it and all are competant and believable. When I said what film id been to afterwards in the pub one of the men said it was a chick flick but I think it is more than that. Made me want to find out more about Barbara Castle and the politics of the time. Some of the filming i'm sure was of Croydon tower block offices.


I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It’d be nice to think that some bright secondary school history teachers would teach the significance of the subject of this film. I don’t think GCSE history includes modern history up to the 70’s, though includes the Suffragette movement. Maybe this is a subject that needs teaching in schools. It’s worrying that there’s a 40 year gap between women being given the vote and them being given equal pay. Why the disparity in the first place? Anyway, a great film. I thought the audience breakdown interesting – almost everyone was 45 and above. Most were well into their mid-fifties – ie people who were working at the time and whom the ladies in Dagenham directly affected with a change in law that resulted in the immediate increase in pay. “Youngsters these days - they don’t know how lucky they are …� They certainly don’t. 10/10 for attention to detail and the styling on this film. The spirit of the 70’s was very well captured. Thanks.


I love going to the cinema and normally go at least twice a month. There are always lots of films I want to see but they are normally kids films like Toy Story 3 or romance films like Dear John. The last film I went to see was quite different to the usual films. Not only was it the first 15 film that I have seen in the cinema, it was more a dramatization than just being a story that is made up to make into a film (that is so bad) Unlike most films I see, where I have heard of a lot of the actors, I hadn't really heard of the actors in the film. Because it is a British film it has mainly British actors like Bob Hoskins and Sally Hawkins. The film tells the story of the 1968 strike at the Ford car plant in Dagenham when the female workers protested against the sexual discrimination that they faced. It follows them as they campaign to get equal pay and shows how it affected all of the people who were involved in it. The reason why I chose to see this film was that I wanted to see something different and I thought it would be good to get an idea of how it happened. Although people who see this film will know how it turned out I still think that if you are interested in it then you should go and see the film to get a better image of everything that happened at that time. Does anyone think that this would be a good review to put in my local paper for my work experience? I don't erally think it is very good but have no idea what else to say! (age 15)


Having found my opinion at odds with a number of recent Time Out reviews (in particular "Bleat, Pray, Love"), I nearly decided to skip this one. I'm glad I didn't. This is a seriously well cast film, with a great script and equally great acting. That it's based on a true story only makes it all the more interesting. It's worrying that women used to earn 50% of what men earned - for doing the same job. I enjoyed the consistent humour that ran throughout the film. The last time I heard applause after a movie was after seeing the re-release of "The Godfather" last autumn. Sure, this isn't a "classic", and probably won't sweep the boards at the Oscars and Golden Globes, but it'd be nice to see this one at least nominated for both. Like I say, brilliant cast. It's a shame the UK Film Council made such poor decisions in the past - more like this would have been good. Four stars.