2010 Certificate: 15


Sassy dramatisation of the 1968 strike by 187 female machinists at Ford's Dagenham motor factory, an act of establishment-shaking defiance that led to the Equal Pay Act. Backed by sympathetic foreman Bob Hoskins, Sally 'The Shape of Water' Hawkins leads the walkout with fellow working girls Jaime Winstone and Geraldine James.  Miranda Richardson provides support from the top as formidable employment minister Barbara Castle. Calendar Girls director Nigel Cole assembles another first-rate cast and once again displays a crowd-pleasing eye for the ladies.


  • Nigel Cole


  • Sally Hawkins

  • Bob Hoskins

  • Miranda Richardson

  • Rosamund Pike

  • Geraldine James

  • Daniel Mays

  • Kenneth Cranham


Too often, Essex girls get a bad rap. But not until the working WAGs of Dagenham threw a spanner in Ford's works in 1968 did Britain's unions finally join the fight against sexual discrimination. So fair pay to 'em.

Following in the very British tradition of Brassed Off, Billy Elliot, Kinky Boots and his own Calendar Girls, director Nigel Cole mixes salt-of-the-Earth mirth with melodrama to recreate the event as an entertaining piece of ficto-history.

In a workforce of 55,000, Rita O'Grady (Hawkins) is one of only 187 women employed by Ford to sew car upholstery in a shabby, sweaty corner of its vast East London plant.

Already paid peanuts, the ladies face a further cut when their jobs are downgraded to "unskilled". Clearly, it's time for action.

But since shop steward Connie (James) has enough on her plate, loveable union rep Albert (Hoskins) reckons Rita has what it takes to take on the suits. He's proven right at their first meeting with Ford exec Hopkins (Rupert Graves), much to the ire of self-serving union boss Monty Taylor (Kenneth Cranham).

So it's everybody out. But since their American bosses (represented by The West Wing's Richard Schiff) flatly refuse to grant them equal pay, the picket lines become permanent.

With money tighter than ever, solidarity wavers and initial support from male colleagues like Rita's husband Eddie (Daniel Mays) turns to resentment as the strike brings the entire operation to a standstill.

Thankfully, the cause finds a fiery champion in Barbara Castle (Richardson), the newly appointed Employment Secretary who loves to play hardball with the bully boys.

Starting out as a bawdy lark a la Carry On At Your Convenience (itself inspired by these events) and ending as Norma Rae Does Westminster, director Cole and first-time writer Billy Ivory take considerable dramatic liberties with the story.

For a start, there never was a Rita O'Grady. Thankfully, Hawkins makes her a perfectly credible amalgam of several real people, far removed from the love-her/ kill-her cock-er-ney sparrer of Happy-Go-Lucky.

Fellow strikettes Winstone and Andrea Riseborough give plenty of chirp alongside seasoned campaigners James and Richardson, though the subplot involving Rosamund Pike as a school mum who turns out to be Hopkins' unappreciated wife rather over-eggs the sisterly pudding.

The fact remains that the women of Dagenham struck a landmark blow for equality and Cole's film does them justice... even if the strike was actually referred to as the "We Want Sex" campaign after they failed to unfold a key banner properly.

And there's you thinking Sid James would have hated it.

Elliott Noble