Iris Out: Meryl Streep in “Iron Lady”

Anna Buchholz

The 2011 film “Iron Lady” gives audiences a peek into the life and career of one of Britain’s most controversial politicians, Lady Margaret Thatcher. Recognized for her phenomenal acting with an Academy Award for Best Actress, Meryl Streep transforms into England’s longest reigning Prime Minister and explores Thatcher’s family life, her struggle to gain recognition as a political figure in a male-dominated government, and her fight with dementia during her later years.

Margaret Thatcher broke in a trail for female politicians, developing a reputation for her refusal to give up. “Never compromise” is the phrase associated with her attitude in this film, and Streep fully encompasses this idea through domineering facial expressions and a sense of ambition that never falters. Between moments of heated arguments for the conservative party and a scene depicting her determination to defend British Islands against Argentina, Streep reveals the stubbornness and passion Thatcher had in leading Britain from 1979-1990.

The film also explores the personal struggles in Thatcher’s life, particularly her fight with dementia later in life. The film begins and ends in her old age and is filled with flashbacks and memories from her life as a teenager to being Prime Minister. The vulnerability of this otherwise strong woman is painfully revealed by her children’s frequent reminders that she is no longer the Prime Minister anymore and that her husband is dead.

The audience is immersed into Thatcher’s aging mind as she has hallucinations of conversations and intimate moments with her deceased spouse. And although she radiates the attitude of an independent woman, images of her picking out his suit and helping him make his breakfast reveal her dependency on his love and their relationship. In comparison with scenes of her commanding a crowd and proclaiming how her political beliefs will become action, this film captures her personal pain with losing her husband and how her illness excluded her from society.

It was no surprise when Streep was named Best Actress for her work in the “Iron Lady.” Her career encompasses an expansive palette of roles, such as in “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979), “Sophie’s Choice” (1982), “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006), “Mamma Mia” (2008) and “Julie and Julia” (2009). Many of these roles were of strong-minded, independent female characters, and Streep does not downplay any of their strength or individuality.

Though Margaret Thatcher’s strong political views and policies continue to be a topic of controversy, her influence as a female becoming a political leader cannot be ignored. “Iron Lady” puts her political character on display, but also explores the range of pains and struggles she endured and continues to battle today. Political views aside, Meryl Streep brings this revolutionary individual to the attention of today’s audiences and highlights the passion, love and dedication it takes to lead and change a nation.