Bethnal Green, London, 1912. Surrounded by crisp linens, clouds of steam and unchecked misogyny, Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) is a mother and wife who's been pressing other people's laundry since she was a child, and has the burn scars to prove it. Maud knows nothing of the world beyond her 12-hour shifts and unequal pay, least of all the politics of the British suffragette movement, which is about to reach the height of its militancy.
Frame by frame we watch Maud's political awakening as local radicals (played by the likes of Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep) rouse her from an uninterested slumber and help shape her into a fist-pumping suffragette. This is not a universal story of women's rights, and director Sarah Gavron's camera stays close to Maud.
Some will criticize the director's choice to recount a collective struggle through just one individual, but Mulligan's performance, coupled with a solid script by Abi Morgan, shows us just how much is at stake when a woman decides to wage war.