Wimmin power retrofitted as holiday heart-stirrer, Made in Dagenham recounts the real-life 1968 strike for equal pay by the 187 distaff machinists at the Ford plant 12 miles outside London. These unwitting soixante-huitards in Mary Quant hot pants and five-story bouffants are led by Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky), forced to balance her raised consciousness with wifely and motherly duties—much as Hawkins seems to be constantly balancing herself, her tiny body on the verge of tipping over from the weight of her period wig and blustery speech-making.
Director Nigel Cole (Calendar Girls) includes as many teary close-ups as possible, the better to serve William Ivory’s sloganeering script. (“Someone has got to stop these exploitative bosses from gettin’ away with murder!” barks union representative Bob Hoskins, sympathetic to the machinists’ plight because of memories of his own single working mum.)
Though nothing here is as rousing as The Pajama Game‘s raise-baiting “Seven and a Half Cents,” the always-welcome Miranda Richardson steals the film in a small role as Barbara Castle, Labour P.M. Harold Wilson’s secretary of state for employment and productivity, threatening to “go all womanly” on two puffed-up lad staffers.