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The Movie: The Iron Lady Essay

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Updated: Dec 27th, 2018


The contentious issue of women leadership in the contemporary world has elicited numerous debates across the world. A nation such as the United States, which is among the pioneers of democracy, is yet to accept a female president. This aspect is a clear indication that women have to work against a myriad of odds to clinch any meaningful positions on a national scale. The entertainment industry often transcends conventions to depict various phenomena in life.

The leadership of women has not been exception to moviemakers’ frantic efforts to pitch themselves as having a keen eye for the activities happen across the world. The movie, The Iron Lady is a typical example of the efforts made in this industry to mirror what happens around the globe. This essay seeks to conduct an analysis of this movie with the objective of assessing its success in depicting the life of the first and the only female Prime Minister of Britain, the late Margret Thatcher.

A synopsis of The Iron Lady

Produced in the year 2011, the movie The Iron Lady is a British biopic based on the life of the longest serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the late Margret Thatcher. Written by Abi Morgan and produced by Phyllida Lloyd, who is one of the most esteemed film directors in the United Kingdom, it casts among others America’s most celebrated actress, Meryl Streep, as the main character, viz. Margret Thatcher.

The movie’s approximately one hour and forty minutes run-time is an attempt at portraying the odds that the 20th century women had to grapple with in their endeavors to attain leadership positions. The Iron Lady specifically cuts a portrait of a woman who comes from nowhere to smash through gender and class based barriers to claim an esteemed spot in a male dominated field.

Analysis of The Iron Lady

As aforementioned, The Iron Lady is a biopic, which has been a subject of heated deliberations as to whether it satisfies the criteria of standing independently as a genre. Many scholars, among them Professor Rick Altman, have extensively deliberated on this issue but it remains largely unresolved. A rudimentary concept of the term biopic is necessary before proceeding any further. The word biopic was coined from two words, viz. ‘biography’ and ‘pictures’ (Brown and Vidal 46).

Biopics are thus movies aimed at “depicting and dramatizing the life of an important historical character either from the past or present era…they often dwell on the big events of a person’s life such as wartime, political, or social conditions surrounding the person’s day-to-day life as s/he rises to fame and glory” (Brown and Vidal 46).

Putting The Iron Lady in perspective, it meets these criteria quite effortlessly. This element qualifies it as a biopic. Margret Thatcher, the protagonist in the movie, was not only the first female prime minister of the United Kingdom, but also the longest serving Prime Minister in the 20th Century.

The movie does well in highlighting the major developments of her life including her meteoric political rise, the Falklands war, the height of her tenure as prime minister, and eventually her unceremonious exit from the ranks of power and authority (The Iron Lady). In this respect, the movie perfectly fits within the statutes that govern biopics.

The central theme in this movie seems to be the struggles that a woman has to go through as she tries to ascend the social and economic ladder. Women have been in fighting terms with men in the quest to make an assertion that what men can do, they can do better. This mantra has been witnessed in virtually all fields including political leadership.

However, the tragedy is that they have never been taken seriously such that those who succeed in clinching enviable positions on the social ladder, they have to incessantly ward off malicious passes made at them by men. In the movie, the protagonist is portrayed as one who made it into male dominated ranks coupled with being quite vocal and even radical with a no-nonsense political style and administrative approach.

However, considering her portrayal in the movie, it gives an impression of a world that is inclined against women and even her tenure seems to have just been a short stunt in office. In her old age, she is still remorseful over how she was forced out of office against her will. The central theme in the movie is developed quite well.

The movie creates different atmospheres for different occasions; for instance, when the ever-tough woman is at it with the men in her capacity, one cannot help but feel a taste of the uncompromising air she builds around herself. She is almost invincible in the face of the men, as she never yields to any of their attempts to sell their ideas to her.

In the comfort of her home, the movie portrays a beautiful family, which is enviable both as a young couple and even later in life. The story is largely told through flashbacks to different points in life by an old almost senile Margret Thatcher. This style also does well in building suspense especially when the scenes change from one scene to another through different instances of flashback. One cannot help but ask fundamental questions on the sequence of events leading to a particular occurrence.

The movie follows a conventional plot line in which the news on TV at the milk store and the reaction of the unrecognized Margret Thatcher forms the exposition. The rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution all come in either as different instances of flashback or a brief section of the present life of the protagonist. Therefore, the theme and plot of the movie is innovatively woven as a series of flashbacks.

The protagonist faces different forms of conflict both within herself and with other characters. The internal conflicts are more clearly notable in her old age. However, her conflicts with other people are almost every day occurrences in her prime years as the head of government due to her radical and uncompromising nature.

At the end of the story, the protagonist seems to change her perception of the issues that tormented her most of her retired life. The movie closes when she is at peace with herself, thus giving the notion of a dynamic character here. She is also well developed in the whole movie, which pitches her as a round character.

The location, point in time, and the characters’ way of life has been well captured in the movie. Even though critics of the movie say that the political life of Margret Thatcher was only scantly covered, a biopic’s scope cannot be compared to a documentary; that is, one should not expect documentary type detail to prevail in a biopic. Once the landmark activities of the protagonist’s life are outlined, the biopic will be within the prescribed standards.

Aspects of design such as the mise-en-scene were put into consideration during the production of this movie. The décor, the lighting, the costumes, and the music were just in the right amount. The director of this movie together with her crew did quite a commendable job. By going to the extent of putting the lead actor, Meryl Streep, through a live session at the House of Commons to get a feel of how the house is when in session, it shows the commitment of producing just the right atmosphere and image for the movie.

The choice of location for the House of Commons was inspired by the similarity between the architecture of the neogothic Manchester Town Hall and the House of Commons. The lead actor has to wear makeup, which makes her appear to be in the right age, which is an impersonation that has been excellently executed. The producers of the movie were truly committed to making this movie the best in all aspects.


The movie The Iron Lady has been successful in telling the story of Margret Thatcher. In deed, she was an ‘iron lady’ and Lloyd did well in portraying her as such. The only concern arising is that the story seems to have dwelt too much on her retired life.

However, at the time of the production of this movie, she was in that phase of her life and most of the story was told through a series of flashbacks. The aim of the movie was to depict Thatcher’s life and it did, thus any form of criticism is not harmful, as it only serves to better what comes after this movie, as it truly depicted Margret Thatcher.

Works Cited

Brown, Tom, and Belen Vidal. The Biopic in Contemporary Film Culture, London:Routledge, 2013. Print.

The Iron Lady. Dir. Phyllida Llyod. London: Pathe. 2011. DVD.

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