There couldn’t be a more timely topic than the role of women in male-dominated areas of work, not least because over the past few years, we’ve been made aware of the massive gender inequality still present in film production. It’s disappointing that, even in 2016, women account for only 25% of directors, writers, producers, editors, and cinematographers in independent cinema. So while Equity may not be the most convincing financial thriller, it is a welcome and timely study of gender, whose feminist credentials – written, produced, and directed by women, and performed by some of the best actresses in the business – help to make the stakes of its scenario both real and captivating.
Anna Gunn plays Naomi Bishop, a senior investment banker who handles the public launch of companies onto the stock exchange. She’s good at her job but haunted by her last account that didn’t go to plan, and which her slimy boss insists on holding over her. Naomi and her assistant Erin (Sarah Megan Thomas) manage to secure a deal with some Silicon Valley types over a potentially lucrative new security program. But things get complicated when Naomi’s part-time lover and fellow bank employee Michael (James Purefoy) gets involved with a few ideas of his own.
Films like The Big Short and The Wolf of Wall Street show the financial sector to be dominated by man-children, addicted to the cutthroat corporate lifestyle and able to recognise women as either sex objects or frosty mother figures. Equity’s success comes from placing the audience on the other side of the spectrum, showing the pressure placed on women – in consciously monitoring how they dress, what they say, how they say it – as they try to be seen as, well, equals.
All this, combined with a fantastic lead performance from Gunn, makes it frustrating to say that the film is far from perfect. There’s a subplot in the form of Alysia Reiner’s government investigator, which is interesting but doesn’t go anywhere. Purefoy, never the world’s most subtle actor, gives a hammy turn as one of the film’s unanimously lecherous men – in its own way slightly sexist, or at least one-note. And the actual storyline of corporate corruption, too reliant on not-quite-contemporary references, never gels together into something satisfying. Still, this is a very promising film and one worth seeing.
Equity is released in selected cinemas on 2nd September 2016.
Watch the trailer for Equity here: