Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep) is now old with a failing mind. She hallucinates about her deceased husband and is rapidly losing her ability to take care of herself. In between hallucinations she reminisces about her life while the film flashes back on her lifelong career as a British Parliament member and reign as Prime Minister.
Yes, “The Iron Lady” is a flashback film. I’m a bit indifferent to this style of storytelling. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. In the case of The Iron Lady, it doesn’t help the film or even make sense. When the film is set in the present, Thatcher’s mind and body are slowly succumbing to old age. This is interesting stuff for the first five minutes or so when you learn all you need to know about her old age condition (weak body, hallucinations, forgetfulness, etc) but after that the rest of the present-time scenes are too long , look pretty much all the same, and add nothing to the story.
Honestly, I can’t figure out how Thatcher can reminisce with such detail while her mind is failing but I’ll suspend disbelieve for the sake of the movie.
If we weren’t dealing with the numerous flashbacks, more film time could have been devoted to not just her political career, which thanks to Britain’s conflicted history in the 70’s and 80’s is interesting, but also her personal family life as well. You learn little about Thatcher other than she was a bold, pugnacious woman with a deep fiscally conservative vision for country. The dialog between Thatcher and her husband, practically forces you to believe that they are deeply in love but as an audience member, I really can’t see why they would be. There are hints that Thatcher is a distant parent and wife but I can’t be sure of that because the film is too ambiguous about it. Her grown son is never seen in the film and I sense the movie hints that he is somehow estranged but never really confirms this or explains why.
Jim Broadbent ,as husband Denis Thatcher, is terribly under utilized in this film. He really isn’t written into the movie well and his witty, whimsical lines do nothing to develop his character or even his purpose in the film.
The film is not completely without value though. Streep puts on a decent performance and Britain’s very difficult times during the 70’s and 80’s serves as a nice backdrop for an otherwise thin story.
If you know nothing of Margaret Thatcher and modern history in Britain, you’ll get something out of this film, not much though. Otherwise, skip it.
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