Film recommendations: RBG and On the Basis of Sex

As we mourn the death at 87 of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and follow the news to see who will be appointed in her place, there are two films that help to tell the story of this inspiring woman.

RBG is a 2018 documentary (Netflix) which traces the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, legendary member of the US Supreme Court. It uses interviews with the judge herself as well as various of her associates, plus news clips and film of her at work and at play (particularly memorable are her trips to the opera and her legendary gym workouts). This is a loving and admiring film, with only one moment of criticism (when RBG openly attacked Trump), but it helpfully puts into context the story of her career and how she was so admired for her legal skills and continued fight for equal rights.

Ginsburg was challenging gender norms from her early days at Harvard Law School to her recent years of dissenting opinions. She wasn’t a firebrand but rather someone who wanted to use the law to make the world a little better, to take steady, small steps towards a distant goal and always to use her incisive intelligence. We also see the depth of love between RBG and her husband, Martin, a man who always supported her and recognised the value of her work.

These aspects of her character, career and marriage also come out in On the Basis of Sex (Amazon), a fictionalised account of the early years of her life. Felicity Jones plays RBG with Armie Hammer as Martin. It is an engaging film that fleshes out the content of the documentary, bringing it more to life and adding details of day-to-day life. Jones and Hammer respond well to each other, and the film, though conventional, is an enjoyable watch.

The world in general, and the US in particular, has lost an impressive figure who recognised and stated that gender-based discrimination hurts everyone. We can for now, watch these films, share them with friends and think about what the next steps of progress in equality might be.

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