Director: Phyllida Lloyd, Great Britain, France
Abi Morgan’s screenplay under Phyllida Lloyd’s direction is a perceptive portrait of Lady Margaret Thatcher, the UK’s first female Prime Minister. We see her ambitiously claw her way to the top in male-dominated politics, the private and professional cost of that power, and her personality evolvement to that of over-bearing egocentricity.
Justine Wright edits in three time periods: the present Thatcher, now 86, with dementia related confusion; the young lower-middle-class Thatcher in Grantham, Lincolnshire; the shrewd Thatcher entering politics and as PM—the 1982 Falkland’s war, surviving a 1984 Provisional IRA bombing, the 1984-5 miner’s strike in northern England, and 1990 rioting against the Poll Tax. Wright deftly blends in archival footage, and his transitions are noteworthy.
Meryl Streep’s Margaret Thatcher is precision personified. Jim Broadbent’s older Denis Thatcher, Harry Lloyd and Alexandra Roach as the younger Thatchers, et al perform brilliantly. As Ms. Lloyd articulates: “…We are all on a journey to diminished power.” The Iron Lady may be Thatcher’s greatest legacy: her policies split the country, yet this poignant version of the crumpled Lady shows dementia’s debilitating effect with compassion, and might extract empathy from her stalwart critics.