Starring Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monáe, Hidden Figures is an uplifting untold true story of three African-American women who made history when they served pivotal roles in the early years of the US Space Program.
As the US were racing to put a man in space before Russia, three African-American women fought against discrimination that was still so prevalent in 1960s America to prove their mathematic abilities and help make the mission a success. In a world where black people were still expected to use separate facilities and sit in segregated sections of public transport these women went above and beyond to achieve their dreams and this uplifting and beautiful film illustrates it perfectly.
Although a bit of a slow burner, Hidden Figures is deeply moving and highly uplifting, the three lead actresses are fantastic and bring elements of humour, fierceness and sass to the roles that brings the film to life. It’s a real eye opener into the treatment that not just black people, but black women in particular had to go through and the film stirs so many emotions in the viewer, from outrage and disgust to warmth and happiness. First we have Katherine Johnson (Henson) a gifted mathematician and human computer who has joined the Space Test Group (full of middle aged white men unenthused by her presence) to try and find a role that’ll enable her to prove her abilities. Secondly there’s Dorothy Vaughn (Spencer) who has become the unofficial supervisor of the ‘coloured computers’ group; a group of black women who have been segregated in a dingy little office. Vaughn desperately wants the recognition (and pay) that she deserves for taking on the role of supervisor but struggles to be taken seriously. And finally, Mary Jackson (Monae) who has the skills and passion to become NASA’s first female engineer but lacks one qualification; a qualification she can’t get unless someone agrees to allow her to be the first African-American woman to attend an all-white high school.
All three women must face their own individual struggles whilst ultimately challenging the struggles that all African-American people were facing at that time in history and their strength, courage and determination makes for a highly inspirational drama.
A little slow in too many parts, Hidden Figures easily had the potential to be a little more hard-hitting, perhaps a little more comical at times but all in all it’s a nice, uplifting drama perfect for a cosy night in and friendly for all the family. It highlights some very important issues and gives credit where it’s deserved for three women who until now were largely unheard of. We’ve seen space movies a million times and we’ve celebrated people’s successes with biographical dramas many times over but it’s not as often that we get to do so with people so underrepresented, and it’s really good to see.