Culture Street

Film

Film Review: The Invisible Woman

On April 16, 2014

By Sophia Whitfield
Directed by Ralph Fiennes, based on the book by Claire Tomalin, The Invisible Woman tracks the illicit affair between Charles Dickens and a young Nelly.

In 1885 Nelly (Felicity Jones) is in her late 30s, her husband is the headmaster of a school and Nelly, who is passionate about the theatre, assists in the school productions, the latest one stars their son Geoffrey as a lovable lion.

Nelly takes long walks on the beach and is seemingly fractured alienated from her husband by a dark secret. When a local Reverend recognises the struggles Nelly contends with, he joins her for walks on the beach where she confides in him her past.

Nelly takes him back to 1857. The youngest daughter of actress Catherine Ternan (Kristin Scott Thomas), Nelly, aged 18, meets Charles Dickens (Ralph Fiennes) during a rehearsal for The Frozen Deep starring and directed by Charles Dickens. She is drawn to Dickens, a charismatic man whose fame has failed to give him a grounded family life. Nelly finds herself the object of Dickensís passion, but must remain invisible, as Dickens is a married man and a public figure.

Nellyís mother is conflicted. While her two other daughters show promise on the stage, Nelly is less talented, but she does not want her to be the object of a married manís passion, despite his fame and talent. But Nelly cannot resist Dickens and as a result endures hardship as she struggles with her love and its consequences.

The scenes between Fiennes and Jones are moving and tense building their doomed love affair for the fall it will endure. The film is steeped in time and place with attention to detail in every respect.

Fiennes brings out the showman in Dickensís character reminding us that Dickens was a celebrity author in his time. He was indeed the first author to embark on the now common book tour, which he did with gusto.

A brilliant performance by Fiennes. Well worth a trip to the cinema over the Easter weekend.

The Invisible Woman opens tomorrow in cinemas across Australia.

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