The Invisible Woman

January 17, 2014

in Movies

Film (2013)

Directed by Ralph Fiennes

Screenplay by Abi Morgan
Based on a book by Claire Tomalin

Cinematography: Rob Hardy; Film Editing: Nicolas Gaster; Casting: Leo Davis; Production Design: Maria Djurkovic

With Ralph Fiennes (Charles Dickens), Felicity Jones (Nelly Ternan), Kristin Scott Thomas (Mrs. Frances Ternan), Joanna Scanlan (Catherine Dickens)

Ralph Fiennes as Charles Dickens, Felicity Jones as Nelly Ternan in 'The Invisible Woman'

Ralph Fiennes as Charles Dickens
Felicity Jones as Nelly Ternan
in “The Invisible Woman”
Photo: David Appleby, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

A well done portrait of Charles Dickens and the young mistress with whom he was associated in the last years of his life.

Charles Dickens (Ralph Fiennes), famous author and father of many children, is married to a woman he does not love. He falls for Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones), a beautiful, very young, actress, and takes her under his wing.

This adept rendition of the story of Dickens and his mistress is very well directed by Ralph Fiennes, who also plays Dickens. The portrayals are thoughtful, not kitschy or sentimental, and seem right to the point.

Fiennes draws out of his young star, Felicity Jones, a combination of youthful charm and a growing sense of fateful realism that makes for a quite interesting combination. Fiennes himself, as Dickens, is also very good, but less complex. His Dickens is as ebullient as they come and lots of good fun. Kristen Scott Thomas (Mrs. Frances Ternan) does an excellent job as Nelly’s mother, an actress with a vivid sense of how things work, but full of soul.

Perhaps the most vivid moment comes from Joanna Scanlan who plays Dickens’ wife, Catherine. It’s not an appealing role, but, at the moment she discovers that she has lost Dickens, her response is heartbreaking. Scanlan delivers that moment compellingly and the contrast with the stolid performance she must give beforehand is striking.

Joanna Scanlan as Catherine Dickens in 'The Invisible Woman'

Joanna Scanlan as Catherine Dickens
in “The Invisible Woman”
Photo: David Appleby, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Dickens’ tragic expectations of these two women – Nelly and Catherine – is masked by his exuberance, unending energy, and zest for life. Catherine suffers quietly in abandonment after rearing scads of Dickens’ children. Nelly survives with Dickens as a partner, but must remain invisible to avoid a public scandal.

Scriptwriter Morgan and director Fiennes handle these themes eloquently, interleaving the obvious contrasts of passion, marital disappointment and public scrutiny with an attentive sense of balance. This is a quiet and thoughtful film. Music is subtly interjected rather than suffused, promoting a sense of measured observation, while editing and cinematography, also carried off exceedingly well, produce a sculpted, careful end product.

– BADMan

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