The Iron Lady

JESSICA LAMB is disappointed

film review margaret thatcher meryl streep the iron lady

Before watching ‘The Iron Lady’ I knew only the most basic details of the poll-taxing, milk-snatching, mine-closing, war-winning Margaret Thatcher’s 11-year reign as PM, and I knew even less about her preceding years as leader of the Conservative party. I can’t say that I’ve really been enlightened. However I do know more than I would ever want to know (or presumably she would ever want us know) about her increasing struggle with dementia.

In view of the fact that the First Lady of British Politics is still alive, this portrayal of a mad old woman assaulted by constant hallucinations of her long-dead husband seems premature. Whether or not you’re a fan of her, Maggie Thatcher is undoubtedly an inspiration – and yet the film leaves you just feeling…sad.

There are moments of brilliance in the flashbacks she experiences; the real Thatcher comes to life in all her handbag-swinging glory, not just the caricature but the woman, and all the emotional struggle that came with the political. Scenes of her hand-writing letters to the families of each soldier killed in the Falklands war for example, and agonising over military strategy, do justice to the more significant and controversial of her decisions.

Far more of her career, however, is rushed over or completely neglected. Her rise through the party is non-existent; she loses a seat – then wins – she’s advised to run for Prime Minister – and boom! – she’s making her victory speech. Likewise, a powerful scene in which the IRA bombs the Brighton hotel and Thatcher makes a lucky escape seemed to be included purely for shock value, as none of the context or subsequent negotiations were discussed.

These confusing omissions merely add to the overarching image of the whole film; the aged, shuffling Thatcher, now politically and socially defunct. It’s an interesting film but ultimately half of it is wasted on the irrelevant present day representation, whilst the parts set during Thatcher’s heyday, where the film briefly becomes both political and exciting, suffer as a result.