“Separate and equal are two different things. Just ’cause it’s the way, doesn’t make it right, understand?”
One of the greatest things about cinema is the fact it can highlight true stories that we should all know but don’t. This is one of those films. ‘Hidden Figures’ focuses on three female African-American mathematicians who worked for NASA during the early years of the US space program- each served a vital role yet are little known about. This is their story…
Kind of. The film isn’t exactly subtle when it comes to presenting the challenges they faced, and a quick Google will inform you that their work environment was not as hostile as the film presents and some of the incidents shown did not actually happen. The whole Al Harrison (Costner) destroying the ‘Coloured’ bathroom sign didn’t happen and arguably adds a needless ‘White Saviour’ dynamic – Katherine G. Johnson (Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Monáe) do a damn good job ‘saving’ themselves, thank you very much.
Although the film does expose and condemn race relations in 1960s America where the film really succeeds is in its portrayal of intelligent and hard-working women. The film gives each woman time to shine and a chance for their voice to be heard. Each is a relatable figure, balancing family life with a high pressure job that gets harder each day that America falls behind Russia in the space race. Considering 50 years have passed since the time the film is set there is still an exceptionally low intake of girls studying STEM subjects and entering those fields. It’s crucial that young girls have a chance to see this film and be inspired, to see what can be achieved and that gender has no impact on the power of their brains.
‘Hidden Figures’ is heartwarming, crowd-pleasing fare. It’s a celebration of crucial yet overlooked contributions to history told with warmth along with a kick-ass soundtrack. To see this is to be empowered with a timely (and much needed!) reminder that great things can triumph during the toughest of times. It’s not exactly nuanced – the group diva strut through the corridor is rather snort-inducing – but it doesn’t need to be. A fascinating story, well-told with truly likeable characters; something we really need right now.
‘Hidden Figures’ opens in UK cinemas on 17th Feb.
Year: 2017 Run time:127 minutes Dir: Theodore Melfi