Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Movie Review: The Invisible Woman

The Invisible Woman is about an affair that Charles Dickens had late in his life with a young actress named Ellen Ternan. Many years younger than Charles, she was 18 and he was 45 when they met. Charles made the decision to separate from his wife Catherine and spent the rest of his life with Ellen.

The film begins with Ellen in middle age reflecting back on her youth as a member of a troupe of actresses hired to perform in a stage play at Charles Dickens' home. Charles is immediately attracted to Ellen, and she's enamored of him as she's read all of his books and thinks highly of him as a writer and person. His wife is portrayed wonderfully by the actress Joanna Scanlan. It's impossible not to be moved by her performance and unhappy circumstances. Charles begins to pursue Ellen, winning her over in time. Her pregnancy is portrayed as well as her sadness when she loses the baby in infancy. Ultimately Charles purchases a home for her and promises to visit once or twice weekly. After his death she marries a much younger man and starts a family.

Directed by Ralph Fiennes, this film is very atmospheric and has very fine acting, including Fiennes as Charles Dickens himself, and Kristin Scott Thomas as Ellen's mother. It is, however, very slow moving and dark and I found it a little bit tedious at times. Checking Rotten Tomatoes I see that critics gave the movie a 76% positive rating, but viewers only gave it a 46% positive rating. I'm not sorry that I watched it, because I have more insight into Dickens than I had before, and as I already mentioned the acting is really very strong, but I can't really give it a strong recommendation either.

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