Directed by Phyllida Lloyd
Starring Meryl Streep and Jim Broadbent
Released by 20th Century Fox
Running time: 104 minutes
Rated PG-13 for some violent images and brief nudity
Author’s note: This review contains spoilers.
To those waiting with bated breath for that favorite media catchphrase, the “U- turn,” I have only one thing to say: You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning. —Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher is one of the most controversial figures in modern history. Some consider her to have been a cruel, heartless villain who destroyed jobs and livelihoods, whereas others revere her as a valiant defender of liberty and the free market who saved her country’s economy. Yet, most agree that she was a woman who stood by her convictions, and this is shown throughout the aptly named 2011 biopic The Iron Lady. It depicts an elderly Thatcher, played by Meryl Streep, reflecting on her life and political career.
Viewers see Thatcher as a young woman, struggling to gain a foothold in politics due to common attitudes at that time toward her gender and lower-middle-class background. Despite these obstacles, she persevered, first winning a seat in the House of Commons and eventually becoming the first female prime minister of the United Kingdom.
Her tenacity is evident in her responses to terrorism on various occasions. Consider, for instance, the horror of the 1984 bombing of the Grand Brighton Hotel, where most of the Conservative Party, including Thatcher and her husband, were staying. The couple escaped unscathed. Unfortunately, the movie only briefly alludes to the fact that Thatcher, undeterred, spoke at the party conference the next day as scheduled, despite severe security concerns.1 However, it does show her responding to the 2005 Al Qaeda bombings in London, insisting, “We must never, ever, ever give in to terrorists.” . . .
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1 Andrea Mann, “October 12, 1984: Five Die as Brighton Bomb Blast Rocks Conservative Party Conference,” British Telecom, May 12, 2017, http://home.bt.com/news/on-this-day/october-12-1984-five-die-as-brighton-bomb-blast-rocks-conservative-party-conference-11364009905041.
2 Erin Blakemore, “30,000 People Were ‘Disappeared’ in Argentina’s Dirty War. These Women Never Stopped Looking,” History, March 7, 2019, https://www.history.com/news/mothers-plaza-de-mayo-disappeared-children-dirty-war-argentina.
3 United Press International, “Thatcher Vows to Denationalize Britain’s Coal,” Los Angeles Times, October 12, 1988, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1988-10-12-mn-3383-story.html.
4 R. W. Apple Jr., “Strikers Rebuked by Mrs. Thatcher,” New York Times, June 20, 1984, https://www.nytimes.com/1984/06/20/world/strikers-rebuked-by-mrs-thatcher.html.
5 Sarah Pruitt, “When Margaret Thatcher Crushed a British Miners’ Strike,” History, November 16, 2020, https://www.history.com/news/margaret-thatcher-miners-strike-iron-lady.
6 Meryl Streep and Phyllida Lloyd, “Meryl Streep on Playing Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady,” Film4, February 6, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6z1vqmXAERE .
7 Robert Siegel and John Campbell, “How Accurate Is ‘The Iron Lady’?” NPR, December 29, 2011, https://www.npr.org/2011/12/29/144449825/how-accurate-is-the-iron-lady.
8 Joe Sommerlad, “Section 28: What Was Margaret Thatcher’s Controversial Law and How Did it Affect the Lives of LGBT+ People?,” Independent, May 25, 2018, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/section-28-explained-lgbt-education-schools-homosexuality-gay-queer-margaret-thatcher-a8366741.html.
9 Eric Lambrecht, “Why Was Margaret Thatcher Called the Iron Lady?” DailyHistory.org, https://dailyhistory.org/Why_was_Margaret_Thatcher_called_the_Iron_Lady%3F.
10 A poll tax is a system in which every adult pays the same flat rate, regardless of income. Thatcher wanted to implement this system to replace the existing tax scheme for local, not national, taxes.