The Invisible Woman

Fiennes plays Dickens

While The Invisible Woman might sound like a science-fiction sequel to The Invisible Man, it is nothing of the kind. The invisible woman this time is Ellen Lawless Teman, the mistress of the author Charles Dickens.

For audiences interested in Dickens, not only his books and celebrity but his private life, this film will be of great interest. For those less interested, it may prove tedious, even boring. The reason for this is that the film takes us back into the 19th century, immerses us in England in the latter part of the century, at Margate on the coast, in London. The costumes and decor, production design are meticulous in their re-creation. The language and the dialogue is that of the period, that of Dickens.

It is also the style of film-making that will entice or repel. It is the very antithesis of the contemporary fast-based action film and slick and rapid editing. Here we have long takes, a kind of portraiture for the characters, filmed from different angles, with screen compositions with characters at the side of the screen helping us to observe them as well as their background. Many of the sequences are long takes, dwelling on the characters and situations. On some occasions there is a musical score, but very often the long takes are presented in silence for our contemplation.

Ralph Fiennes’ performance as dickens is recognisable but different, through the effect of his hair and beard style, that of the portraits of Dickens himself. He has the opportunity to put on a play and star in it, be a celebrity to his many fans, read some of his work, and be the author in the public eye.

But he also has the opportunity to be the private Dickens, the husband with the large number of children, separating from his wife, wooing Nellie Turner, falling in love with her, sharing his life with her, grieving over the death of their child, finally installing her in a house in London so that he could keep his relationship with her but also his public image.

This means that the film does depend on the performance by Felicity Jones as Nellie. We first see her after Dickens’ death, married, walking the beach at Margate, putting on a play in the local school. These scenes recur but the main focus is on her past, her life with Dickens. We readily believe that Felicity Jones is Nellie. She is supported very strongly by her mother, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, a more genial role then she usually plays.

- Peter Malone, ACOFB

Starring Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas, Tom Hollander, Joanna Scanlan, John Kavanagh. Directed by Ralph Fiennes. 111 minutes. Rated M (Mature themes).

The Invisible Woman

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