The Divine Order

★★★★☆

Funny and heartfelt tale of female empowerment focusing on women's suffrage in Switzerland

Women in Switzerland only secured the right to vote within living memory. That startling fact provides the backbone of Petra Volpe's The Divine Order, a warmhearted crowd-pleaser in the tradition of Made in Dagenham. Volpe brings the lightest of touches to a tale that runs along familiar lines, but there is sufficient grit to counteract the cosier elements and an irresistible central performance from Marie Leuenberger.

In 1971, Leuenberger's Nora willingly endures the domestic tyranny of life in a small Swiss village. She cooks, she cleans, she cares for two children, a husband and a grumpy old father-in-law. The law states that she can only seek employment with the permission of her husband. It feels more like the Middle Ages than the late 20th century, a situation brought into sharper focus by the fate of Nora's free-spirited niece Hanna (Ella Rumpf), who is carted off to prison as a means of ending a relationship her father considers inappropriate.

A national referendum on the granting of women's suffrage allows The Divine Order to deftly capture the shifting attitudes within the village and the country as Nora turns from submissive housewife to committed activist. It goes without saying that only men are allowed to vote on this landmark issue.

Funny and heartfelt, the film finds interesting shades of grey in the characterisation. Nora's husband is sympathetic and there are women in the village who consider that men have a God-given right to rule their lives. Winning hearts and minds results in a bittersweet delight in which the comic highlight is a trip to Zurich and a guru who encourages Nora to 'love her vagina'. The Divine Order may feel a little lightweight at times but it is an immensely entertaining tale of female empowerment that could not be more timely.

Selected release from Thu 8 Mar.

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The Divine Order

In 1971, a young housewife organizes the women of her town to petition for the right to vote.