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The Iron Lady, a movie directed by Phyllida Lloyd was released last week; it stars Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, England’s first and only female prime minister. The Iron Lady is the first feature film about the former prime minister, where she is depicted as an old lonely woman with dementia, reminiscing on past experiences while having imaginary conversations with her late husband and businessman, Dennis Thatcher, portrayed by Jim Broadbent.
Thatcher earned the nickname the “Iron Lady” due to her strict conservative policies and opposition to the Soviet Union. However, instead of focusing on her political career, the filmmakers focused more on her personal life, saying that they never meant to make a film biography about politics. According to Jill Serjeant from Reuters, British director Phyllida Lloyd and screenwriter Abi Morgan mainly “relied on her published memoirs, input from 1980s politicians, and hours of TV footage and speeches” in order to represent her as a regular woman who rose to great power only to lose it in 1990, “after losing the support of her cabinet.”
As a response to the biopic, Rob Wilson, a Conservative legislator said, “I just wonder why the filmmakers had to go so heavily on the mental illness, the dementia side, when Baroness Thatcher has had a very important life in the politics of this country and the world.” Norman Tebbit, a government minister under Thatcher, also criticized the film, saying, Thatcher was not like the “half-hysterical, overemotional, overacting woman portrayed by Meryl Streep.”
The Iron Lady begins with a frail Thatcher wandering unrecognized into a small grocery store to buy some milk. The former prime minister occasionally goes down memory lane, where she sees herself as a young girl sheltering under a table at her father’s grocery store; the biopic always returns to Thatcher in the present.
One of the most painful scenes was when her daughter Carol sat by her bed and told her that her husband was dead, her son, Mark was in South Africa and that she was no longer the prime minister. The film focuses on Thatcher’s human side, where she remembers events of the past and forgets those that are very recent. The elderly Thatcher evokes sympathy that a lot of people may relate to with their own mothers.
According to The Telegraph, a friend of Thatcher’s family said “Sir Mark and Carol are appalled at what they have learnt about the film; they think it sounds like some Left-wing fantasy. They feel strongly about it, but will not speak publicly for fear of giving it more publicity.”
StarTribune reported that Lloyd discards the criticisms, though, she says she is not shocked by them. “It is a Shakespearean story about power and loss, and the cost of a huge life, and letting go” Lloyd told Reuters. According to the Los Angeles times, the director also said, “The Iron Lady is not a political film, except it’s political in wanting to put an old lady at the center of it.”
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