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The Iron Lady and Life

January 8, 2012

I went to see a movie, The Iron Lady, invited by Maryann, my dearest filmmaker friend.

The film was about Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of Britain from 1979 to 1990. As impressive as it was that a grocer’s daughter rose to become the first female prime minister of an industrialized, western country, neither Don nor I liked her. Her political views were too conservative for us, to put it mildly.

But I wanted to see how the film treated her life, especially with Meryl Streep portraying her.  It had mixed reviews centering around questions of factual accuracy–e.g., exaggeration to show Thatcher asserting herself against the mob of patronizing men. Sitting through the movie, I thought of Don, who would have had lots to say coming home, if he had watched it with me. But I also know Don would have been so impressed by the performance of Meryl Streep that he would have almost forgotten about his personal feelings toward Thatcher. Don loved work well done. He loved arguments well presented, even when he disagreed with them. After the movie, what would have stayed with Don was Streep’s performance, itself, as art–not so much Thatcher’s political views or how she made him mad. A case of art that is stronger than the reality or fact. Indeed, that’s how I felt. The movie’s script left room for anyone to pick on, but Streep’s performance blew me away.

Finally, however, what touched me most was the image of the bewildered old lady, plagued by dementia, who never recovered from the death of her husband, Denis. There I met a human Thatcher, not a politician. With all the power she had commanded, she could not escape old age eating up her mind and body. She could not avoid the loss of her beloved husband.

We are all fragile and equal at the end. So why not share our common lot with compassion?



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