There’s nothing to say except “yes, of course” to Carey Mulligan‘s performance as the long-suffering Maud in Sarah Gavron‘s Suffragette. She’s playing the Sad-Eyed Lady of the London Lowlands, and in my book performances don’t get any sadder or subtler than this one. I guess I could be liberal and say Maud is more-or-less on the same keel with Saoirse Ronan‘s Eilis in Brooklyn (i.e., the other slamdunky Best Actress contender). If you want to do cartwheels for Brie Larson‘s obsessive, stringy-haired performance in Room, knock yourself out …but you also need to come down to earth and admit that Mulligan is way, way more nominatable. Maud, I feel, is her new signature role — yes, more so than her breakout performance in An Education.

Suffragette star Carey Mulligan during last night’s press gathering at Lucques — roughly 6:55 pm or thereabouts.

Less than 2 seconds later.

1.5 seconds after that.

Meryl Streep is the 60something version of a classic gold-standard brand she created some 36 or 37 years ago. Cate Blanchett is the 40something version of…well, not the same thing, of course, but close enough, obviously rendered with her own particular artistry, brushstrokes and genetic code. And Mulligan is the just-turned-30something version with decades to come and miles to go. And everyone knows this.

Last night there was a “hang out with Carey” gathering at Lucques, the upmarket restaurant on Melrose. I didn’t arrive until 6 pm or so. Mulligan looks amazingly thin for someone who just gave birth…what was it, six or seven weeks ago? (Her daughter’s name is Evelyn.) I’ve “been” through two pregnancies (just ask Glenn Kenny) and therefore know a little something about what it takes to shed after delivery. It’s no walk in the park.

I told Carey I was hugely impressed by her stage performance in David Hare‘s Skylight, which I saw last May in New York. I asked if anyone had captured it on video, and she said no, not for commercial consumption but that it had been video-captured and sent to certain parties out here via a private link. I asked her publicist if I could be allowed to re-see it this way. I’m sensing that it might happen.

“Looking appropriately hangdog for the most part, Mulligan handles every line and scene in Suffragette like a master violinist. That rock-steady gaze of hers…those shrewd, evaluating eyes…that building undercurrent. She’s always been my idea of a great beauty, but when she chooses to go there she has one of the saddest faces in movies right now. The strain, stress and suppressed rage of Maud’s life are legible in every look, line and gesture. Mulligan is fairly young (she just turned 30 last May) but she’s a natural old-soul type who conveys not just what Maud (a fictitious everywoman) is dealing with but the trials of 100,000 women before her, and without anything that looks like overt ‘acting.’

“All actors sell it, of course, but the gifted ones make the wheel-turns and gear-shifts seem all but invisible.”