I watched this in a crowded cinema with an audience that enjoyed it very much indeed - there was some applause at the end. It is a very entertaining film - very funny in places, telling a good story, and moving too. All of the cast are first-rate - particularly Sally Hawkins as Rita, the effective strike leader, Bob Hoskins as the sympathetic (and actually extremely cute) union rep. Albert (other, more senior, union leaders are portrayed very unsympathetically almost as cogs in a union-management conspiracy), Geraldine James as Rita's older friend Connie, shop-floor shop steward but much weighed down by the needs of her ill husband and Miranda Richardson as Barbara Castle - her portrayal is something of a tour de force. It tells a story of great courage, as the 187 female machinists at the Dagenham plant battle against union and management intransigence, the doubts and hostility of their menfolk, many of whom are laid off as a result of their action and the intervention of Ford bosses from the States, who try to bully the women into capitulation. In the end, as is well known, they win, more or less, gaining a very substantial pay rise (though not equal pay) and the promise from the government of legislation, which did come into effect about two years later.
The period is visually recreated very effectively (I can remember the time and the events well). There is, perhaps, a little air-brushing, just as often happens in films which are clearly using treasured modern examples of what have become classic cars, for instance (Cortinas, Corsairs and Anglias among them, in this case). The drama is well paced. Throughout, the actors easily gain our sympathy, and that is a major element in the success of the film.
But it's not perfect. Some of the men behave abjectly when confronted by these feisty women (a standard reaction is open-mouthed, inarticulate astonishment, designed usually to raise an easy laugh) - the plant manager at Dagenham, the senor union bosses, in particular Castle's two departmental flunkies - and this is fun but not entirely convincing. The Ford boss from the States is an exception and, I think, a plus in the film. OK, they were unused to women showing muscle and determination in this context, but these were hard, determined, experienced men, not patsies, and I doubt that they would have behaved so much like deflating balloons. If they had, the women's task would have been much easier than it was (the film has quite a strong 'Calendar Girls' feel to it, especially towards the end). In this and other ways, there has to be some suspension of disbelief on behalf of the audience. It could have been a much grittier film. But what it is is good fun, enjoyable and - importantly - a tribute to the real women who did an amazing thing ; and it is very nice to see some of them - the actual women - in the end credits, talking to camera and remembering the remarkable thing that they did.