ONE film with strong women characters last week in Military Wives, and now this spirited drama about the real-life takedown of that Goliath of sexism, the Miss World competition. Anyone would think the film industry was waking up to the fact that more than half its potential audience are women who would quite like, now and then, to see their lives and concerns reflected on screen.

Welcome to 1970 and the Miss World competition. Women parading in swimsuits while having their measurements, “vital statistics”, read out. What strikes you on first seeing this again is how utterly bizarre it looks now. (The competition is still going, minus the swimsuit round, and with a new focus on charity fundraising).

Keira Knightley plays Sally Alexander, a middle class student and mother trying to make the world a better place for her daughter. Sally believes in fighting the patriarchy by the book, one meeting at a time. Jo Robinson (Jessie Buckley) backs direct action, even if it does come with the risk of arrest. Two women representing opposite wings of what was then known as the women’s liberation movement. In both their sights was the Miss World competition, shown live on television from London.

The contest had become a magnet for protests, not just for its sexism but for its treatment of women of colour. The screenplay by Rebecca Frayn and Gabby Chiape’s adroitly takes in the two themes, with Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Miss Grenada checking the privilege of some of her competitors and protesters. They find time, too, for a generational clash between Sally and the mother (Phyllis Logan) she accuses of settling for a quiet life of domesticity.

There is no such subtlety when it comes to the depiction of Bob Hope (Greg Kinnear), the compere for the evening, or competition organiser Eric Morley (Rhys Ifans), though their wives (Lesley Manville, Keeley Hawes), like every other female character, come across well.

The protest that brought the show to a halt is handled skilfully by Lowthorpe (Swallows and Amazons, Three Girls). Even if you are familiar with the story the women’s sheer daring still takes the breath away. As does the scene when contestants are asked to turn en masse to show their backsides.

Lowthorpe’s drama is hardly an edgy piece of cinema. From 10 minutes in, when we are treated to a blast of Aretha’s RESPECT, it is clear what side the picture is on and how much it is going to enjoy being there. Which was fine by me and, I suspect, with all those who will come to see it. Definitely one to watch with mother (and daughter, and son).