Any biopic that has a powerful and charismatic political personality like Margaret Thatcher’s for a protagonist, can never really and truly encapsulate the many achievements or the myriad controversies that are now synonymous with her name. If you walk into a theatre hoping to see a film about Maggie’s political career and the controversies that followed her, you will be disappointed. Instead of attempting to highlight or gloss over significant political milestones, the film (in my opinion) is a beautiful look at the girl, the lady, the wife and the mother behind the callous exterior.
Director Phyllidia Lloyd who earlier directed Streep in Mama Mia, returns with a story that traces Ms. Thatcher’s unplanned and unprecedented rise to political power and the struggles of a woman trying to balance that power alongside her role as wife and mother. The film progresses through a series of flashbacks. From her contemporary life, the film contrasts the once-commanding leader and her historic rise through the ranks to an ill old lady suffering through the painful pangs of dementia.
We first see Ms. Thatcher in a cluttered convenience store, buying milk. The store in itself with its dilapidated interiors and the graffiti and trash on the walls outside is probably a reflection of the times in which Margaret Thatcher found herself. Right from the onset we are introduced to a lady who is no longer in complete control of her mental faculties. The film is really about her life, her ageing and her suffering.Her regular hallucinations serve the dual purpose of highlighting her state of senility as well as the psychological need of a lady desperate to reconnect with a husband who probably had to play second fiddle to a wife who was busy in political power-play for the better part of their married lives. More than being a film about the crude goings on in the corridors of power, the iron lady is for me – a love story.
The Iron Lady interweaves two themes. One is an endearing love story while the other tells of a struggle against the odds – of a young woman following her dreams in a time in history dominated by intimidating and powerful men. It subtly tells of the great personal costs Thatcher had to endure in order to remain at the political forefront for over a decade. Yet she remains committed to her cause to ‘do something’. What she did will always either be appreciated or will be mired in controversy but, this film is not about those decisions. This is not a film about Thatcher’s politics.
Ultimately, The Iron Lady is all about Meryl Streep. She gives a remarkable performance, a celebration of a powerful woman and because of it we are forced to celebrate the achievements of this wonderful actor herself. Over the years Meryl has continued to slip into the skins of great characters and make them come alive on screen. She is a powerhouse both in this film and every other role she has ever played and for that alone, she has my vote for yet another Oscar win.