Walking out of the theater, having just seen Iron Lady, Mom, a pensive look on her face, turned to ask Kate and me, "So what do you think the movie was about?"
My opinion: Iron Lady takes a look at the life of Margaret Thatcher, her political achievements, the difficult times she led her country through, and the tough decisions that she was willing to make in office. Yet we don’t follow the story chronologically; instead we first meet Margaret as an elderly woman who is treated condescendingly by her staff and is having hallucinations about her dead husband. I think the movie skillfully begs a few questions: Did all her years in office really mean anything long term? Was her family happy? Near the end of her life, is she happy with the choices she made?
Margaret’s conservative political views were beautiful, and I mostly agree with everything she tried to accomplish in office (at least what the movie portrayed; I need to do more research), but the movie consistently showed her leaving her children behind by joining Parliament. It showed her husband discontent and feeling neglected. It showed her daughter feeling as if her mother’s political concerns were of more importance than she. Margaret’s love is politics, and she invests her life in it.
But eventually Margaret is forced to retire as her fellow Conservatives find it expedient to compromise with the Labor party and let England take a more socialist path. In the ensuing years, her daughter questions her sanity, sends her to see specialists, and is unwittingly patronizing. Her son is off living in South Africa, barely a part of her life. And as her life draws to an end, Margaret finds herself fondly dwelling on the few pleasurable times she spent with her family, rather than her fellow politicians. But as her husband (in hallucination form) reminds her: you can rewind the video tape but you can’t get those years back.
Yes, Margaret Thatcher took some amazing stands as Prime Minister. I believe God may have used her to stem the tide of socialism in Britain. But when it comes right down to it: did it make any eternal difference? As Prime Minister, she was replaceable. But as Dennis’ wife and Carol and Mark’s mother? Those were roles that only she could fill. When Dennis asks her to marry him, she passionately explains that she’ll never be one of those women who are content to keep house, or who, she disdainfully says, will "die washing a tea cup." Yet that is exactly what she finds herself wanting to do as the movie closes. Just wash her own tea cup rather than have everything taken out of her hands... Just spend time with Dennis who is long dead... Just have Mark come to visit her... While the nations’ politics have drastically changed in the hands of her colleagues, that’s not the sting in her life. What she really longs for is her family.
Margaret may have taken all the right political stands, but her male colleagues had trouble working with her. Men (in general) won’t submit to woman’s leadership; that’s not the way God designed it. And truth be told, Margaret’s Biblical responsibility was to love her husband and children and be a keeper at home. Her political concerns should still have been important, but secondary to her primary calling… While Dennis is a large part of the movie, rarely is it actually a flash back to when he was alive. Rather, it is usually Margaret's own regrets reflected in her hallucinations of him. She honestly has no idea if he was ever happy...
It’s a sad movie but very thought-provoking.
And I walked out of the theater thinking: Is this really what the filmmaker wanted to say? Maybe not...
But he did an amazing job of saying it.