The Invisible Woman
I had been looking forward to The Invisible Woman since I first heard about it. Being a lifelong Dickens devotee, I was thrilled that a film was being made about him.
The story is set in the last few years of his life, when he met young actress Ellen Ternan (Felicity Jones), who appeared on stage with her more talented sisters and mother (Kristin Scott Thomas). Dickens, by that time the most famous author in the world, with a wife and a lot of children, was entranced by her, and was willing to do whatever it took (and it took a great deal) to ensure that they could spend their lives together – though in his case, there were very few years left.
Ralph Fiennes directs the film, and stars as Dickens, and does an outstanding job in both roles. The narrative is somewhat awkwardly bookended 13 years after Dickens died, by which time Nelly (as Ellen was known) is respectably married and has a child. But – according to the film – she is struggling with the secret of her past, which is unknown to everyone else in her life. There are many ways the film could have gone wrong – too serious, too shallow, too over-costumed – but it manages to avoid those traps and give us a slice of Victorian life which feels true, and conveys the restless and narcissistic energy for which Dickens was famous.
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