54 of 59 people found the following review helpful
Ralph Fiennes proved with Coriolanus that he was a director to watch (we were already keenly watching him on the other side of the camera) and here he becomes one of Britain`s most promising directors, as well as a versatile, enterprising and unpredictable actor.
I would never have thought of Fiennes as a shoo-in to play the Inimitable - as Dickens was known in his short though hectic lifetime - but, with the help of a beard and the costume department (who excel themselves throughout) as well as his own bursting intensity, he is suitably energetic and volatile, and manages to convince you, for much of the time, that you are indeed seeing the man, or as many aspects of him as humanly possible. I don`t believe there`s an actor alive who could embody the whole of Dickens: he was an unexplainable one-off!
The plainly pretty Felicity Jones is marvellous as his alleged lover Ellen "Nelly" Ternan, and Joanna Scanlon is perfect as his homely, forlorn, neglected but nonetheless tough-minded wife Catherine. Her pent-up tears, when they come, are heart-rending.
Perdita Weeks (radiant and perky) and Amanda Hale (warm and knowing) are excellent as Ellen`s amiable sisters, while Kristin Scott Thomas, in an uncharacteristically low-key role, is equally effective, and quietly touching, as their wisely compassionate actress mother.
With Tom Hollander well-cast as Wilkie Collins, the always incisive Michelle Fairley as the latter`s live-in lover (would we had seen more of her; her character is left teasingly underdeveloped by screenwriter Abi Morgan), and veteran Irish actor John Cavanagh working wonders as a friendly local priest in whom Ellen confides, this is a beautifully crafted, photographed and acted film, which manages the considerable feat of not having `period drama` written all over it.
One thing I loved was the sparing use of music - in fact very little is heard. Fiennes makes use of natural sounds as much as possible. He also has a nicely moody eye for interiors and lighting, using space evocatively. He is also obviously - as indeed he should be - a superb director of his fellow actors.
The famous train crash, which so shook Dickens, making him nervous of rail travel in his remaining years, plays slightly fast and loose with the known facts, but this is an imaginative reconstruction of events in the later life of Dickens, not a documentary.
The few `love scenes`, when they eventually occur, are ineffably gentle, hesitant and subtly erotic, the first kiss barely a kiss at all...
There`s an excrutiatingly telling scene on (I think) Hampstead Heath, where Charles and Nelly are out walking, when who should they run into but his son Charlie. Their attempts to cover their embarrassment are almost farcically embarrassing.
But there are many memorable moments and scenes, and it`s definitely a film to see more than once.
I wanted to give this five stars, but little is perfect in this life, so let`s say nine out of ten, and an extra star in spirit!
40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
"The Invisible Woman" (2013 release; 111 min.) brings the story of how famous writer Charles Dickens falls in love with a much younger woman, Ellen "Nelly" Ternan". As the movie opens, we are told it is "Margrave, 1883", where we see Ellen and her husband George hang out with several family friends, Ellen is asked (as apparently happens often) about her "childhood" (which we later learn is really a misnomer) memories of Charles Dickens. The movie then goes to "Manchester, some years back" (in fact, the late 1850s), where we get to know Dickens (played by Ralph Fiennes) as he is trying to turn his book "The Frozen Deep" into a stage play. Then comes about the Ternan clan, mother and her 3 daughters, to act in the play. One of the daughters, Ellen ("Nelly"), only 18 at the time, gains the immediate attention of Dickens (a married man, and 20+ years her senior), and a slowly developing courtship starts to play out. What will become of the attraction between these two in a Victorian society where the rules are strict? To tell you more would ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: first and foremost, this film ie is a tour de force for Ralph Fiennes who in addition to starring also directed this movie, his debut as a director. His portrayal of Charles Dickens brims with energy. It is amazing to see how successful Dickens was in his day, truly getting the rock star treatment of that era. Second, the performance of Felicity Jones as Ellen oozes charm from start to finish. She is a veteran of the UK film and TV industry but not so well known on this side of the Atlantic. I think that is likely to change following this performance. Third, the production itself is done exquisitely and hence it is no surprise that this movie just scored an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design. Last but not least, the film does a great job bringing the dilemma between the feelings of the two protagonists on the one hand, and the demands/standards imposed by society on the other hand. At one point, Dickens asks Nelly to share a secret with him, and she informs him that her middle name is "Lawless". When she in turns asks for a secret from Dickens, he whispers "Ellen Lawless Ternan... that is my secret", wow.
I recently saw this film at the Regal South Beach in Miami, and even though I saw it at a weekday matinee screening, the screening was quite well attended (leaning heavily towards women, I might add). It may be that there is a strong demand for this movie, which would be great, as this is certainly a movie that deserves to be seen. Bottom line: if you are in the mood for something that is miles away from your standard Hollywood fare, and learn a thing or two about Charles Dickens along the way, you cannot go wrong with this, be it in the theater or on DVD/Blu-ray. "The Invisible Woman" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 2 May 2015
Loneliness, love and secrecy are at the heart of this beautiful story.
Loneliness is what Dickens feels, surrounded paradoxically as he is by admirers, well-wishers, friends and a large family.
Love is what he needs and does not have with a wife who cannot understand his complexities. Love is also what he feels for young Ellen Ternan (whom he affectionately calls Nelly), the 18-year-old daughter of an actress he knows and befriends. Love for Nelly is what she cannot feel for him, a much older man, and one who is married, however much she respects him as a writer and appreciates his generosity toward her family.
Secrecy is what must be maintained at all costs as the yearning of Dickens for her intensifies. She must be protected from scandal. Along with her charm, intelligence and beauty, her purity and integrity are what Dickens loves in her.
But all is quite problematic in the beginning because she will not yield to him. Her moral standards are higher than his, which he sees, and which in turn deepen his regard for her.
Dickens is caught in the trap of success, the prison of wealth and fame. A public man, the property of everyone, he is forced to scramble for private stolen moments. Work for him becomes compulsion and refuge, a place of isolation and silence where he can pause to breathe again.
What does Nelly represent to him? Radical change: freshness, freedom, hope, opportunity. While there is still time he wants a different kind of life, an honest one with love at its core. He is tired of the spectacle of respectability, the respectable face he must wear for everyone, even for his own family. This is his dilemma, his terrible irony. The man who in his books detests and derides falseness, pretense and hypocrisy must live the life of a hypocrite.
The tension, we see, is awful. On the surface he is jolly, jovial, gregarious, fun. A born storyteller, he loves to entertain those around him with tales, anecdotes, magic tricks, party games. But in the down moments, the private ones in the shadows away from the glare, we see the toll that fatigue and sadness have on him. His heart is breaking. He is dying without Nelly's love.
He plunges deeper into his feelings for her through the process of writing Great Expectations — the novel, decoded on one level, a long cry of love for her. In a quiet and tender moment alone with her he reads aloud from the handwritten pages of the novel. Hers are the first human ears to hear these words after his own, the famous words of Pip confessing his love to Estella:
“You have been in every prospect I have ever seen since — on the river, on the sails of the ships, on the marshes, in the clouds, in the light, in the darkness, in the wind, in the woods, in the sea, in the streets. You have been the embodiment of every graceful fancy that my mind has ever become acquainted with...To the last hour of my life you...remain part of my character.”
Nelly listens in silence, tears streaming down her face. She knows the depth of his emotion for her is genuine. She understands he loves her. She wrestles thereafter with her own demons — the social demons of rightness and moral rectitude. We watch as she slowly gives in, tentatively, timidly, delicately, the emotion all the more profound for its delicacy.
We're left with the impression that theirs was a real love story. He is tender and doting on her, generous with everything. She in turn accepts him as he is, knowing that she can only ever have a part of him, that another equally large part must always be shared with a world that adores him too.
Nelly is wonderful. We care for her and her happiness. We see clearly why Dickens loves her and why he does everything he can to secure her love.
They remained together for the last 13 years of Dickens' existence. These were beautiful years for Dickens, the film implies, perhaps the happiest of his life. He was understood and genuinely accepted, faults and all, by a woman he sincerely loved. He must have felt that all the toil in life had been worth it. Books and fame were one thing. But what mattered most was love.
Nelly lives on. We see her in middle age. She has married a good man who is her junior by four or five years. They have a young son. They run a school for boys in Margate on the Kentish coast. We know her great secret but her husband and others do not. She was the lover of the great worldly man that everyone loved. The burden of this secret weighs heavily on her. She is moody, distant, sad. She takes long, lonely, vigorous walks along the wild shore to clear her mind and raise her spirits. She must remain strong for her husband, boy, and all the other boys in the school.
But one person, the local vicar, detects her suffering. He is Reverend Benham. He is kind and loving. He wants to help her. Time and again she refuses his help. But finally he calls her name aloud to her, the name of Ellen Ternan, a name she had buried long ago in an obscurity designed to protect herself and the reputation of Dickens. When she hears this, when she knows that he knows, she unburdens herself to him. This scene, moving and deeply touching, makes us love Nelly all the more for it.
Felicity Jones, the actress who plays Nelly, is extraordinary. Where does such beautiful complexity come from in one so young? If there is no answer to this, at least there is the evidence of it to witness on film. Felicity is magnificent. You will care for Nelly and her happiness just as much as Dickens did.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 February 2015
A simply beautiful film based on the book by Claire Tomalin. I saw this movie in the cinema and was absolutely stunned by it - really gorgeous art direction, lighting, acting, writing.... Ralph Fiennes directed himself in the lead, but there is no trace of self-indulgence, he's the perfect Dickens, and Tom Hollander is the perfect Wilkie Collins, and... Oh, just watch this lovely film! It's a terrific story (and it's true, pretty much all authenticated) and just brilliantly brought to the screen. Should have won all the awards going!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 23 July 2014
I simply don't understand some of the reviews for this film. What did people expect from the subject matter? Maybe some viewers weren't as familiar with the historical background as they might have been. Nelly Ternan's biography by Claire Tomalin http://goo.gl/Hi2jbO
It is beautiful in every way - in the acting, direction, cinematography...
All the cast are excellent in my view, and no-one is miscast. But Felicity Jones in particular gives a very fine and moving performance as Ellen Ternan at the two stages of her life.
And contrary to the views of some others, having already watched it twice (once alone and once with my wife) I shall certainly watch it again
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 25 June 2014
Though slow at times I found this a interesting insight into Dickens life. I cannot claim to be as knowledgeable about him as most (particularly other reviewers) but as such much of the story was new to me and i think i enjoyed it for that reason.
on 2 April 2015
Ralph Fiennes’ biopic of the liaison between Dickens and Nelly Ternan - an actress over twenty-five years his junior - ploughs fertile furrows of literature, romance and the contradictions of Victorian morality.
The story, drawn from Claire Tomalin’s book, portrays with care a dimly-lit world of understated attraction and emotional turmoil. Fiennes’ Dickens and Felicity Jones’ Ternan are drawn to each other more by their differences than the little that they have in common. She’s restrained, he’s exuberant; he can get away with a lot, she can’t.
The opportunities for the film are large and are best realised in the performances of Tom Hollander, as a well drawn Wilkie Collins, and Fiennes, when he’s showing us the more frenetic sides to Dickens’ personality. Kristin Scott Thomas does her best with the limited opportunities provided by playing Ternan’s mother. At other times, the restraint of the production leaves a sense of a fire only half kindled. You feel little of the vital chemistry that there must have been between the lovers, and the sequences set in Ternan’s middle age reduce the amount of time which might have been spent developing the key period in her relationship with Dickens: for example, the depictions of her miscarriage and the Staplehurst rail disaster are perfunctory.
This is a tale which needed more space to breathe, with greater opportunity given for us to feel that enormous creative and emotional force which drove Dickens to turn his back on his family, and embrace a secret life which, in turn, accelerated his self-destruction.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 September 2014
Dickens' own creations are so colourful that real life seems to fade by comparison. I found this film interesting but rather too long. Dickens was a complex character and I always feel that the most important person in the life of 'The Inimitable', as he called himself was in fact Charles Dickens. I will still read Claire Tomalin's book as her longer biography was excellent. Good performances and direction throughout.
on 28 September 2014
I watched 'Gunfight at the Corral' recently and, although I enjoyed the film, I was struck by there being no attempt whatsoever to make the principal actors resembles the real life characters they portrayed: Burt Lancaster (as Wyatt Earp) doesn't even support a joke shop moustache.
Not so in the film under discussion: the way Ralph Fiennes so closely resembles the real Charles Dickens is very impressive indeed and this raises the film from mere mediocrity to something better. The images are quite beautiful and the acting first rate so for these positive aspects alone this film is certainly worth watching. However it consists of a series of vignettes with no real beginning, middle or end; or, perhaps more accurately, no bits in between so that much remains unexplained.
Dickens is expertly portrayed as a flawed character: a party animal and exhibitionist but yet with a social conscience which he actually acts on. However he shows no conscience at all in his behaviour towards his wife (expertly portrayed by Joanna Scanlan) when he begins his love affair with the beautiful Nelly (Felicity Jones).
However, we must never just a book by its author.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 February 2015
Different to what I expected , really enjoyed it , good film one you could watch again ,which I will.