Iron Lady - reactions

Women2Win held a private screening of The Iron Lady with ConHome on Monday the 9th of January.

Eve Pollard led a panel discussion after the film which entailed Lord Tebbit, Baroness Bottomley, John Whittingdale MP and her official biographer Charles Moore sharing very strong and very different opinions about the film. 

Our audiences views were just as varied: 

JULIA MANNING:  Dementia and the Iron Lady: there is no shame

Last night I wept as I watched 'The Iron Lady'. As I am sure thousands of others across the country will be, I was deeply moved by the beautiful portrayal of our greatest post-war Prime Minister.

If you have had a parent or grandparent who has times of memory loss, who doesn't recognise themselves in a picture, whose episodes of happy forgetfulness are suddenly shattered by the raw reality of grief or disability then you too will be moved. That the person in question in this film is Lady Thatcher, who blazed a trail for women and rescued our country from economic disaster, makes it all the more poignant. 

Many people have been critical, said to feel uncomfortable with this portrayal of Lady Thatcher while she is still alive, saying it is insensitive, unkind. My problem with that is inconsistency. I don't recall hearing such objections when the film 'The Queen' was made with all the sensitivities of the Royal Family's reaction to Princess Diana's death and the issue of modernisation. And the significant difference here is simply the dementia.

For one in five of us who make it beyond the age of 80 will suffer with dementia. It is a mental illness over which we have no control. Frailty and increasing dependency will come to us all. And there is no shame in this. 

 Mrs Thatcher's mantra while i n power was about getting things done - what we do - not with being someone. This is a challenge to us in our celebrity obsessed culture, but we also need to remember that there is a whole spectrum of 'doing'. 

What Lady Thatcher can do now is very different from what she was able to do in the 1980's, but that doesn't make her any less significant, or any less human. It doesn't diminish her achievements or who she still is. It didn't diminish Reagan. We come into the world utterly dependent and most of us will leave highly dependent, and there is dignity and tenderness in this need.

What message would it send to society if films were only made about people's 'golden years'? That their time of fame was all that mattered? That once someone is out of the limelight, for whatever reason, they lose their worth? 

I believe director Phillida Lloyd has done us all a service, and told a love story that happens to feature one of the most famous and successful women in the world. Lady Thatcher is still loved, still deserves to be revered, and her dementia makes no difference to that.

Sophie Brodie:  It was a fascinating film - for what it included, excluded, got right and misrepresented. Essentially an Oscar tilt, albeit a rather moving and politically unassailable one. I agree with Charles Moore: it will enhance the Thatcher myth. Even more illuminating was the reaction to it. 

Susan Wade Weeks:  I thought the film was absolutely brilliant and disagree strongly with those who felt it inappropri ate or disrespectful. On the contrary, I found it powerful and rounded and incredibly well put together. Meryl Streeps performance was breathtakingly good. It will be nominated for Oscars in every category I suspect, as hair/makeup/sound/production design all first class. This will contribute to the status of Mrs Thatcher as a national icon and presents a far more balanced view of her life and personality than the excoriating legacy of Gerald Scarfe and his ilk. Quibbling over verisimilitude and details of other characters is irrelevant. I found the film almost Shakespearean in its rounded depiction of an unique, flawed but exceptional character. 

Chris Emmett:  It seemed a pretty cruel technique to use dementia as the vehicle to reflect on the achievements of a truly great woman. For those of us that remember the period of Mrs Thatcher’s premiership (I lived in Liverpool at the time of union dominance) some of the incidents depicted gave us a trip down Memory Lane. There were factual inaccuracies and the time did not allow the audience to understand the thought processes which underpinned decisions. The story focused on Baroness Thatcher as a great woman at the time of her premiership only. My personal view is she still is a great woman, still devoted to serving her country, still guided by principal and duty not personal gain or fame. I only wish the film had been more daring in reflecting this.  On the whole if you did not live it, and want to know more, you may be inspired to read Charles Moore’s book when it is publishe d! 

Flick Drummond:  The panel discussion afterwards was fascinating and I am sure we could have listened for ages to those who really knew her. I am looking forward to Charles Moore's biography and it is a shame that it can't be published until after her death - it would make good reading for anyone who wants to know the real Lady Thatcher after the film. It was interesting to hear the different perceptions between Lord Tebbit and Lady Bottomley - I suspect Lady Thatcher became more terrifying for younger politicians as she gained in her own confidence throughout her term in office as Prime Minister. I don't think the film really showed some of the personal friendships that she must have made which was a shame as it portrayed her as a lonely person (apart from Denis) which I am sure she was not.

I am sure the film was distressing to all those who worked with her, I hope that those who didn't know her develop some empathy towards her but I am not sure it really developed her character to do that. Still I thought Meryl Streep was a fantastic actress and her first appearance in the shop as Lady Thatcher was incredibl e as it looked just like her. 

Melanie Hampton:  The Iron lady offends and disappoints in equal measure.  To show a great leader in the throws of dementia whilst that person is still alive is tasteless, as Norman Tebitt said they did not do it to Harold Wilson.  Whilst Streep plays this very movingly the dementia dominates the movie without adding to the whole.  The producer and actress are well known for their socialist beliefs and you can feel the antipathy through out the film but it is hard to see exactly what the point was of the movie and there are so many wasted opportunities.  The Iron Lady should have given us an insight into this extraordinary world leader whose legacy lives on.  It is agreed that this is not an accurate portrayal of her character and you get no sense what so ever of political power or the skill and subtlety of the political game.  It is immaterial to look and sound like Margaret Thatcher if you fail to grasp the essence of what is her.  That is the key and they so failed to deliver. 

Jane Calvert-Lee: The film did nothing to enhance the role of women in politics. Every clip showing Lady Thatcher dealing with political problems she was shown haranguing her opponents and even her (inept) colleagues. What a shame it did not show her persuasive powers and her thoroughness for understanding a subject, then her formulation of a strategy to overcome often insuperable problems.  And the director was a woman! We need to demonstrate that the stereotypical view of women politicians is incorrect - this film endorses all the wrong aspects. Pity.

Kate Grussing:  Women2win organised an amazing evening given the combination of this riveting film and an exceptionally qualified panel. The panellists and audience were outspoken in their disagreement about the auth enticity and impact of the film. The profound impact Margaret Thatcher had on politics, women’s aspirations and the UK were indisputable.  I was among several strong women who debated the merits and lessons of the film for hours after this high impact event. 

Alison Cork:  I hugely enjoyed the film – reminded me of all the reasons I think Margaret Thatcher is one of the best things ever to happen to our country. If everyone had that ‘can do’ attitude…need I say more. There were a couple of lines in the film about ‘just DOING’ stuff, as opposed to talking about it, which really resonated with me. She inspired a lot of women of our generation – anyway, she may not be perfect, but at least she had spine…’

Julie Illes: The film wasn't as I expected. I thought it would be a dramatised biography of Margaret Thatcher's time in office. It was more of a "chick-flick" entertainment with the dementia used as an instrument to engage flashbacks telling of the love story between Margaret and Dennis. Although I question the timing in releasing the film whilst Margaret Thatcher is still with us, and very much a public figure, in the long term I think it will not have done her any disservice - indeed it paints a more sympathetic picture of a remarkable woman than many of us might have expected.

Antonia Cox: An eight year old I know who saw the film said she thought Margaret Thatcher's line about doing, not just thinking, was the most important one. That made me realise why Mrs T is so inspirational: she didn't just talk about things, she changed them.

Louise Burfitt-Dons FRSA: For Meryl Streep’s excellent impersonation of Margaret Thatcher, putting Toryism on the map and making it cool for kids in the way that only a Hollywood production can do,  I rate  The Iron Lady 100 per cent.  However, as coverage of the life of one of the world’s most inspirational politicians (as the title and poster pic of `The Iron Lady’ strongly suggest), the film was a let-down.  The scenes of the main character suffering dementia became tedious and repetitive, and could have been cut by fifty per cent.  The poor taste in focusing on this side of one of the 20th century’s most famous, influential, inspiration and respected women deserves no score at all, but maybe  credits 15 per cent  as a story-telling device. The flashbacks were interesting, but far too short and left quite a bit out of what should have been a gripping tale.  The script lacked consistency and I got the feeling that the writers were under confident; maybe they should have taken guidance from some of our excellent talent in the UK; failing that, the Scandinavians, and Danes in particular, who are particularly skilful at sketching out a political drama which keeps you on the edge of your seat for every minute of the performance. So, for script:  35%.   My overall score therefore is around 51%.    

Anne-Marie Trevelyan: The Iron Lady took me by surprise. I was expecting to hate it, to want only to criticise and lambast it, but instead I was enthralled from the first moment.  Whilst I think it is just rude to launch such an intensely personal  film whilst the chief protagonist is still with us and so very frail, it was a film which told a unique story in an utterly original and moving way.

The use of old age and flashbacks triggered by sound and unsuspecting words was mesmerising – I did not feel that dementia was the centre of the story, merely a tool to take the viewer on a journey of love – of her father, her husband, her country & every citizen in it. The message I took away was that here was a woman who was driven by a deep commitment to her country and a burning desire to try to serve it and to do something worthwhile to save it from terminal decline.  The filmmaker’s ability to bring together key moments in the young Margaret’s life which may have formed her strong and clear-headed personality in later years was captivating.

I came away intensely proud to be a woman who wants to try to make a difference in a small way to improve the country I am a part of, knowing that Lady Thatcher fought in this battleground and won because people knew that she said what she meant and she did all in her power to make it happen. It was an inspiring film, and I hope it will do much to strengthen the affection in which Mrs T is held by all who knew and worked with her amongst the wider audience of the UK and the world.

Florence Kollie : I thought the film was grossly factually incorrect however despite this aspect I found the movie very moving.  Essentially if you separate your political views and treat this as a film and not a documentary; the portrayal of the issues of aging and dementia were heart-breaking to watch. When you leave a movie feeling emotionally drained you know that it has had an impact on you. What better way to focus attention on these key issues in a generation where all of the focus is on youth.  I think for those that have experienced being a carer of someone old with dementia you will appreciate this movie regardless of the controversy around it.