Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870) has rarely been the subject of films. The invisible woman is about his affair with actress Ellen ‘Nelly’ Ternan. At the time Dickens is 45 and she is 18. It would last until his death 13 years later. This is told in flashback. Thirteen years after Dickens’ death, Nelly changed her name and remarried, but she’s haunted by her deep, dark secret. (Insert dramatic score and/or thunder.) The film then chronicles their difficult relationship. Difficult because this is Victorian England and he is married. His wife Catherine (a subtle and effective performance by Joanna Scanlan) finds out and they later separate. (divorce is at the time unheard of) I won’t spoil what happens in the rest of the film, but two moments stands out. On a visit in London, Charles Dickens walks through the poorest streets. We glimpse faces of children laying in alleyways, of prostitutes, beggars and dunk men. In their eyes: hopelessness. It is impossible to understand today what London was back then. Also worth noting is the re-enactment of the Staplehurst rail crash. It comes suddenly without warning. The film is well made, like we could expect in all the right departments in a British costume drama. Ralph Fiennes first directed a modern version of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, and as a stage actor probably knows how to direct other actors. But I found Felicity Jones (Ellen Ternan) underplaying her role terribly. Although I was not expecting an action film, this Victorian biopic moves at too slow a pace. It actually takes an hour before their first kiss. Get to the point faster! Recommended only to those who like their theatre masterpieced.
And the Oscar went to… The invisible woman‘s costume designer Michael O’Connor lost to Catherine Martin for The great Gatsby directed by her husband Baz Luhrmann. Martin won a second Oscar that evening as production designer (with Beverley Dunn) for the same film. Other nominees for costume design were: William Chang Suk Ping for The grandmaster, Patricia Norris for 12 years a slave and Michael Wilkinson for American hustle.
The invisible woman
Rated Parental Guidance