After much hesitation, I finally watched “The Iron Lady” last night. I should explain that although I love films, I don’t often watch them when they come out, mostly because I am not a fan of going to the cinema. There are simply too many competing sounds in a cinema: People talking, munching popcorn, eating nachos or pizza, slurping drinks, and so forth. I have a low tolerance for noise at the best of times, but especially so when I watch a film. I took me particularly longer to see this film because I wasn’t sure whether I should; as it turns out, my misgivings were well founded.
I felt very uncomfortable within the first five minutes of the film; I felt like a voyeur (or should that be voyeuse), watching a woman, who is still very much alive, in a state of mental decline. I was struck by the insensitivity of this film, and wondered how Margaret Thatcher and her family must have felt when the film came out; from what I read, they refused to watch it, and a number of people who knew here said that parts of it were sheer nonsense. It would have been one thing if Thatcher or her designate had given permission to make the film, but this was clearly not the case. I was tempted to stop watching the film after the first 10 minutes, but I stuck with it, thinking it might get better. I am in no way a supporter of Thatcher’s politics; my unease had nothing to do with any personal feelings I have about her as a politician, but my sympathies for her as a human being.
The film itself was a mess; I’m still not sure what its point was. To show Thatcher’s decline into dementia? To focus on Thatcher’s political life? To show Thatcher’s personal side? No one theme emerged clearly, as the film kept switching back from past to present with no apparent rhyme or reason. I have nothing against the use of flashbacks to reflect the progress of a person’s life, but I found this film to be clumsy in its structure. I gained little insight into Thatcher, what made her tick as a human being, and what drove her political life and decisions. Thatcher was portrayed in a very one-dimensional way, focusing mostly on her determination to not compromise, with the suggestion that she did so because she wanted to show that women can be as strong, if not stronger, than men. I sincerely hope that Thatcher was motivated by less facile reasons. Meryl Streep was, as expected, very strong, but is the ability to impersonate someone well sufficient, I wonder? The director seemed to have no clear idea about who Thatcher was, or how she is to be interpreted. A film like this is not a documentary: I expect the film to show more than just random facts without any threads or underlying premise. Given the very divisive nature of Thatcher’s term as PM, and the many significant decisions that impacted millions of Britons, this period and the people who lived in it – even Thatcher – deserved better.