It seems that true stories are often the most meaningful, and though many of which are often emotionally heavy, the sincerity and profound sense of warmth that lies at the centre of such tales leaves a lasting impression on viewers nonetheless. Everyone loves to watch the journey of an underdog no matter what form it may take; Mimi Leder’s film definitely falls into that category and yet, it is so much more than that.
On the Basis of Sexis a triumphant, period drama that documents the life of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, starting from her enrollment at Harvard Law School in 1956. Ruth (Felicity Jones) and her husband Martin (Armie Hammer) are both in attendance at the prestigious school, but being a woman, Ruth constantly faces discrimination and hurtful prejudice despite her academic excellence. Tell us why you deserve to occupy a spot a Harvard when it should go to a man. Oh, your children must keep you busy. Women are too emotional to be in the courtroom. But Ruth’s passion for equality is never fully extinguished; though there are many setbacks to her career as a lawyer, Ruth continues to carry on, choosing to move through life as a loving mother, a knowledgeable professor and a vocal opponent of the American constitution, no matter the insult any man sends her way. Eleven years after her graduation from Columbia University, her husband, who is currently practicing tax law at a profitable firm in New York City, presents her with a case that could potentially topple the legal system if she should emerge victorious. The odds however, are not in Ruth’s favor. At that point in history, the American constitution had not been updated, and each judge presiding in a courtroom made assumptions and their rulings based on those outdated laws. Alongside that, it was deemed the ‘natural order’ for a woman to stay within the domestic sphere of the home and for a man to act as the breadwinner for the family because that was the hierarchy common in most American families. It was as simple as that. And, that doesn’t even begin to address the century-long tradition of judges favoring prosecutors’ argument of acceptable discrimination in an array of situations.
“The word women doesn’t appear in the constitution.”
“Neither does freedom.”
Enough said. Needless to say, this retelling of Justice Ginsberg’s ongoing battle for gender equality was, despite being a dramatisation, first and foremost a reminder. A powerful reminder for us to stand up for what is right regardless of how impossible it may appear. The looming threat of failure is always close by, and it takes courage and hard work to make it vanish, but that does not mean one shouldn’t try.
The casting of this film is spot on, seeing as Justice Ginsberg herself gave the film her own personal stamp of approval. The subject matter is of a serious nature, but it was approached with a rare kind of tenderness only seen in true stories brought to life on the big screen. Hearts are captured by Felicity Jones’ remarkable ability to convey a touch of the universal rawness that countless women in the past, living in Ruth’s day and in modern times experience, as well as the strong self of sense and morality that Justice Ginsberg in inherently known for.
On the Basis of Sex sheds light on the importance of continuing the fight, and how it is the duty of the present generation to make life better for future ones. Ruth Bader Ginsberg was, and remains, a pioneer in her field, and her story reminds us that just because something has been done a certain way does not mean it should continue on in that way. Time is but a victim to social change, and it is constitutionally unlawful to subject women to discrimination on the basis of sex because others are too resistant or too afraid to accept what could be. This film is beautiful and administers a much-needed blow to the glass ceiling that has never completely vanished over the female population.
by Kacy Hogg
Kacy is an English Literature student living in the Great White North (no not Winterfell unfortunately), but Canada. She’s deeply in love with popcorn, French fries and chicken mcnuggets. When’s she’s not chugging back on tea, you can most likely find her at the cinema or tucked away in the corner of a bookstore. Her favorite films include the Harry Potter series, Cinderella, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Hangover, Casino Royale and Lady Bird. She’s also an avid binge-watcher of Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead. You can follow her on Twitter here: @KacHogg95