10 December 2000 | joelcairo1941
Not for the faint of heart
There is nothing sentimental about this story of obsession. Set in London in the 1950's--and what could be drearier--this bleak story based on the true story of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be executed in England, is a tour-de-force for Newell, the director, the two leads, Richardson and Everett, and the incomparable Ian Holm.
Miranda Richardson as Ellis gives a knockout performance in every scene. She has so perfectly captured the emotional pitch of a woman in love with a heel that one cannot help identifying with her. Her all-consuming love, even to the point of neglecting her son, makes it ridiculous to entertain the common query of "why doesn't she just get away from him?" Mike Newell captures all of the emotional highs and lows of a relationship of this kind, and the rakishly handsome Everett is both charming and destructive as Ellis's amor.
The beauty of this movie is that it is not just about two ill-fated lovers, the way many Hollywood movies are. It is also about England's class system. Ellis's attraction to Blakeley is more about her desire to be acknowledged by her "betters" than just by this one man. Perhaps the most heartrending scene comes at the end where one sees Ellis's painted finger going over a letter she is about to send on the eve of her execution to Blakeley's mother, apologizing for the misery she has caused her. The language of the letter is perfect, because it reveals volumes about Ellis's class aspirations, and the hopelessness of her ever achieving them.
This movie is a must-see for movie lovers, but it is not for the Meg Ryan set.