Just like he did with 2003's 'Calendar Girls', director Nigel Cole has captured an authentic and rousing story of women uniting to stand up for what they believe in. In an attempt to gain the same pay and much-deserved respect of their male counterparts, 'Made in Dagenham' follows the journey of a few determined co-workers, who change the social standing of women around the globe. With the current economic downturn, this gripping tale will find kindred spirits in audiences worldwide.

'Made in Dagenham' takes a trip down memory lane to a time when Britain had a massive car industry and Ford's Dagenham factory was the chief manufacturer in Europe, providing work for 55,000 men. Rita O'Grady (Hawkins) is one of 187 'unskilled' female machinists employed by Ford to sew car interiors. Following a successful one-day strike in the late Sixties, Rita persists in her struggle for sexual equality in the workplace alongside fellow union members Albert (Hoskins) and Connie (James).

However, when their American boss Tooley (Schiff) point-blank declines their demand to receive equal pay, funds become scarce for the strikers, spirits flag and preliminary encouragement from the likes of Rita's husband (Mays) transforms into bitterness. Fortunately, with a helping hand from Barbara Castle (Richardson), the feisty Labour minister for employment, the tables gradually begin to turn, and Ford is forced to face up to its inequitable treatment of female employees.

The high point of this moving film is its depiction of female solidarity, with Cole reconstructing the era in a way that feels realistic without relying on devices such as music to convey the women's emotions. Sally Hawkins has an endearing quality that makes her perfect for her role as Rita - her gradual discovery of her inner strength and newfound ability to speak publicly are particularly gratifying for viewers. There is also marvellous support from the outstanding Winstone as model wannabe Sandra and Riseborough as life-of-the-party Brenda. The charming Hopkins manages to play his role effortlessly, while Richardson helps bring proceedings to a fulfilling climax.

The script is packed with superb scenes and is often very amusing, but there are also several touching moments of intimacy, such as the heartfelt confrontation between Rita and her distressed husband, or when Pike, who plays the boss' trophy wife, comes to talk to her. Screenwriter William Ivory gives just enough background information about the characters to make the viewer concerned about what happens to them.

'Made in Dagenham' is a well-crafted battle-of-the-sexes movie that will strike a chord with even the most fickle of viewers. Make sure you stay around for the end credits to get an insight into the real women behind this captivating story.

Laura Delaney