MERYL STREEP is an outstanding actor so The Iron Lady was, for that reason alone, a film I wanted to see. How now to set about an attempt at review? I knew at the outset that I’d be hard-put to describe the experience, and experience The Iron Lady most assuredly was. A maelstrom of emotions shook me out of the world of today so that I thought I’d done 10 rounds in a boxing ring by the end. Ms Streep, who has said I wanted to locate the human being inside those caricatures (of Lady Thatcher), is way way beyond outstanding here, and Jim Broadbent’s empathy extraordinary.
The (gorgeous) Alexandra Roach, playing the young Margaret Roberts, immediately located the human being in me. I wholly understood the ambition to “do something” that burned in the young Margaret, raised and inspired by her staunchly certain and well-meaning grocer father and Conservative Mayor of Grantham, Alfred. I don’t understand however how anyone, male or female, of whatever political persuasion, is ever persuaded to take on the office of British Prime Minister. The personal cost involved, it seems to me, is beyond all telling, and in saying so I mean to assert no trite judgment, one way or the other, on prime ministerial leadership in what were tumultuous times. I hope that there are genuinely happy and “good times” for all holders of high office.
But the human stories of the time, right up to the present day, are the real power in this film – amongst these the miners’ strike, the Falklands War, the assassination of Airey Neave, the Brighton bombing, the jobless, the homeless, the good, the sad and the bad. And there must be a thousand parables contained therein. Perhaps in time, and with further reflection, the parables will unravel themselves further. But truth to tell I cannot attempt a review at this time beyond admitting that, thinking I was going to burst as I left the cinema, my wife and I headed quickly and quietly for the car and, once safely inside, cried like two small children overwhelmed by huge experience. Cried for countless thousands of lives, the lives of ordinary citizens, hard working, well-meaning people amongst them. Cried for “demented power” gone mad (wheresoever it does). And cried and cried for the heart-searing pathos of a lonely, fearful, haunted old lady who struggles to stay “upright” without the sustenance and support of a one-time certain Rock, peering at times into the abyss. Life is absolutely tough at times. Leadership amongst the human race is costly, demanding and often thankless. And life’s toughness sometimes clobbers leaders just as surely as the rest of us.
We all need to learn the language of compassion, and live accordingly, for we human beings, towering former prime ministers included, are made of flesh and not of iron.