The Iron Lady – Review


The Iron Lady herself wouldn’t want to be remembered this way

Currently, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is eighty-six years old. Her husband passed away in 2003, her son lives in South Africa, and her daughter still comes to visit her despite her declining mental state. Though Thatcher was an inspiration to women all over the world with all of the things she accomplished during her tenure as Prime Minister, The Iron Lady chooses to focus more on her current state than her past victories.

As the film opens, the elderly Thatcher (Meryl Streep in some of the best makeup of the year) makes breakfast for her husband and herself, and then sits at the table and has a conversation with him. The camera moves away, then returns to the breakfast table where Margaret sits alone. It’s a very personal and charming look inside the life of such a great lady, but the somber tone quickly grows tiresome. Most of the film is told through flashbacks as Margaret reminisces about her life, bringing us back into her elderly world quite often.

Thatcher remembers her early start in politics, when she campaigned for a seat at Dartford and met her future husband Denis Thatcher. She was a bright young lady with a strong head on her shoulders, and who doesn’t hesitate to tell her fiancé how she feels about the roles of a woman as a simple housewife. “I will not die while cleaning up a tea cup,” she proclaims. The two were married, had twins (Carol and Mark), and Denis continued to support Margaret’s political career.

She remembers her time as the Education Secretary in Parliament, when she is called “screechy”. When she decides to run for Prime Minister, Thatcher goes to a vocal coach to help her lower the tone of her voice. When elected, she remembers all of her great struggles and accomplishments such as the union strike and the Falklands War. She was in office when the Berlin Wall fell down, and when the Cold War ended. One woman comes to visit the elderly Margaret Thatcher and tells her what an inspiration she has been on her life. Thatcher just nods in agreement.

It goes without saying that Meryl Streep is perfection as Margaret Thatcher. She looks like her, she acts like her, laughs like her, and even sports a false set of teeth like hers. She also plays the older version of Thatcher perfectly, like a lost old lady trying to remember when her life was meaningful.

Although the film is full of inspiration and great history, it spends entirely too much time in the present and therefore retains a feeling of overall sadness. Margaret’s husband Denis (Jim Broadbent) spends time with her throughout the present day scenes, acting sometimes as a comforting partner and other times as a ghost that she can’t get rid of. Margaret is regularly frightened of herself and her surroundings, and she spends a lot of time wishing she had been able to spend more time with her children.

The Iron Lady should have focused more on telling the story of Margaret Thatcher as it happened, rather than in flashback form; it’s much too sad to see her alone, declining in heath and mind. As strong and independent a woman as she was, The Iron Lady herself wouldn’t want to be remembered this way.

Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Notable Cast: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Alexandra Roach, Olivia Colman, Harry Lloyd
Writer(s): Abi Morgan

Tags: , ,