The Invisible Woman (2013)

R   |    |  Biography, Drama, History


The Invisible Woman (2013) Poster

At the height of his career, Charles Dickens meets a younger woman who becomes his secret lover until his death.

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6.2/10
8,713

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  • Felicity Jones and John Kavanagh in The Invisible Woman (2013)
  • Ralph Fiennes in The Invisible Woman (2013)
  • Gabrielle Tana at an event for The Invisible Woman (2013)
  • Felicity Jones in The Invisible Woman (2013)
  • Ralph Fiennes in The Invisible Woman (2013)
  • Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas in The Invisible Woman (2013)

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Cast & Crew

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Director:

Ralph Fiennes

Writers:

Abi Morgan, Claire Tomalin (book)

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17 April 2014 | pwiltsh
5
| The Invisible Woman - A Sexual Fantasy
Claire Tomalin in the first chapter of 'The Invisible Woman' states that Fanny and Ellen Ternan were 'written out of any biographies of both Dickens and Trollope for two reasons'. Thus begins the first of many such statements that appear in her book that can't be substantiated. They are not facts, though they are presented as such. Any film based on the book by Claire Tomalin can only suffer, as a result, from the contrived nature and bias of the book.

Yes, this film might have deserved 8 out of 10 stars if Charles Dickens hadn't come into it and it was simply the story of a writer who had an affair with a much younger woman in Victorian times. Unfortunately, Charles Dickens does come into it, and he has come into it in every review and discussion about this film that I've come across so far.

The first half of Ralph Fiennes' film is beautifully nuanced and utterly delightful in its depiction of Dickens and his relationship with the Ternan family through their mutual love of the theatre. The developing relationship between Dickens and Ellen Ternan is persuasive in cinematic terms - until the downward slide into the mire of 'revelations' spawned by Claire Tomalin's book.

Stripped of meaningful content, cinematography and acting too become meaningless. When a film is based on the life of a great writer like Charles Dickens, those who have read widely about his life and work will feel uneasy when he is taken out of context to fulfil a role aggressively forced on him by a less than scrupulous biographer or film maker. The so-called 'revelations' translated to film may spoil one's enjoyment of the narrative as surely as a poor reproduction of a film to a DVD will lessen its visual impact.

Those who have a scant knowledge of Dickens and his work will more easily be able to accept this depiction of the writer and the man. Sadly, like many of the reviewers and others connected with the film, they may then become 'authorities' on Charles Dickens and his relationship with Ellen Ternan and busily go about perpetuating myths and gross distortions of facts.

By the time furtive sex is followed by the birth of a still-born child and Dickens and Ellen appear unchaperoned in the Staplehurst train crash, the sound of Nelly's pacing on the beach at Margate becomes deafening - but also more laboured. We enter a world of fiction that is not nearly so satisfying. The more the film strays from known sources and tries to convince, the more it flounders and disappoints.

One can only hope someone makes another film about Charles Dickens that does justice to everyone in a way that saves them from the strange mix of sexual fantasy and strident feminism they appear to have generated. While Nelly suffers from not having the reasons for the secrecy surrounding her relationship fully explored, Catherine Dickens and George Wharton Robinson suffer in a way that endows them with as much character as a couple of wooden pieces in a jig-saw puzzle.

'It would be a far, far better thing' to stay home and read Dickens' letters or other biographies or more of Dickens' own writing or Edward Wagenknecht's 'Dickens and the Scandalmongers' or more about the social and sexual mores of the time than to believe this film could possibly shed any light on the less stereotypical but more complex relationship between Charles Dickens and Ellen Ternan.

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