The Invisible Woman


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"The film suffers from a profusion of good taste"

Charles Dickens loved to perform. His wife considered him a Peter Pan figure, someone who never grew up, wonderful with children, attractive to women, full of energy and fun ("It's all a game with him") and yet responsive to the darkness of his childhood, a tortured soul, protected by his talent and his fans.

The invisible woman is an 18-year-old girl, called Nellie, from an amateur theatrical family who falls under his spell. Many have been there before her. She treads in the shadow of heartbreak like an angel of always, more serious and grounded and committed than he.

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"Whoever we're with, " he says, "you're alone."

The film suffers from a profusion of good taste. Passion is hinted at, lust imagined rather than expressed, love left to linger in the imagination like the memory of geraniums.

The rooms are dark, the pace languid, the feelings folded beneath a veneer of politeness. You would think this a platonic affair until you see Nellie standing pregnant in a field of corn.

Despite a stronger spirit and willful determination, she remains private. You learn so little of her and remember Felicity Jones' face and how she moves in those long dresses.

Director and star Ralph Fiennes is not an actor who craves the spotlight. He prefers the subtlety of consideration. And so it is here.

Charles may be swept off his knees, never his feet. He has another lecture tour arranged.

"You will share him with his public," Catherine Dickens warns, as Nellie becomes resigned to invisibility.

"Everyone has their secret," he tells her. "And this is ours."

Reviewed on: 07 Feb 2014
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Adaptation of Claire Tomalin’s 1992 biography, which brought Charles Dickens' secret 13-year affair with a young actress to light.
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Director: Ralph Fiennes

Writer: Abi Morgan, based on the book by Claire Tomalin

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas, John Kavanagh, Joanna Scanlan, Tom Hollander, Perdita Weeks, Amanda Hale

Year: 2013

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK

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