28 January 2014 | paul-allaer
"Ellen Lawless Ternan... that is my secret"
"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 movie is a tour de force for Ralph Fiennes who in addition to starring also directed this movie, I believe 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 can possibly 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 movie 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 movie at the Regal South Beach in Miami, and even though I saw it at a weekday matinée screening, the screening was quite well attended (leaning heavily towards women, I might add). It may be there 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 worth checking out!