The Iron Lady
Review of The Iron Lady (2011), dir. Phyllida Loyd
“It used to be about trying to do something. Now, it’s about trying to be someone,” says the most powerful and controversial British post-war prime-minister, the first and only female one in history. She claims this being an old woman, struggling with dementia, recalling the vivid memories of her political rise and career.
The Iron Lady, directed by Phyllida Loyd and released in late 2011, is a non-documentary and non-cliché biographical view of three different life-periods of this controversially popular woman.
It starts with elderly Thatcher buying milk in a shop with a remark that its price is surprisingly high. She is inconspicuous and somehow sad. We get to know later that she is mentally ill and unable to see reality clearly. A pitiable widow who still has hallucinatory visions of her deceased husband Denis (Jim Broadbent). Her gloomy apartment and wrinkled face evoke a depressing atmosphere. Then, suddenly she comes back in her memories and we see her as a grocery store owner’s young daughter who is lucky to be admitted to Oxford University. The fresh, self-confident, ambitious, and extremely intelligent Margaret Roberts (played by Alexandra Roach) marries a businessman Denis Thatcher and breaks into the male-dominated Tory party, winning a seat in the House of Commons. As a successful politician and later prime minister, she has to handle some of the most critical situations in Great Britain of the 20th century like Brixton Riots, miners’ strikes, bombing of the Grand Hotel and the Falklands War. She remains incredibly strong, decisive, rigid, single-minded, unable to take advice from her colleagues, and, most of all, isolated. Even at the age of 80 she only drinks whiskey. One does not know if one should admire or pity her.
The whole movie is calm without any striking or surprising moments, but Meryl Streep’s performance makes it emotional. Her technically perfect imitation of Thatcher’s facial expressions and gestures during her most successful speeches, but also of her blurred gaze and clearly visible facial tics when her condition started to deteriorate, definitely deserved the Oscar she won at the 84th Academy Awards.
I was really curious about this movie, not only because I have always been interested in politics, but also because I have heard a lot about Margaret Thatcher and wanted to learn more. The movie, however, did not leave me with a clear picture of who Thatcher is; it only left me with a vague impression that she is unique and there must be more to her than what I saw in the movie.