The Invisible Woman
What if the cost of being madly in love forced you to hide in a public closet as if you didn’t exist?
The Invisible Woman suggests a horror film where Claude Rains’ Invisible Man (1933) finally finds a lost love. Yet Director Ralph Fiennes has brought to the screen a real life psychological drama where the great Charles Dickens conducts a lifelong affair with a woman 30 years his junior.
Also starring in the lead role as Dickens, Mr. Fiennes allows his camera to peer backward into the lifestyle existing in Victorian England. Set in the years leading up to 1883, the costumes are as marvelous as the scenes of the English shoreline.
Dickens was at the top of his game at this time, famous for both his accomplished novels as well as his production of stage plays. Married for a lengthy period time and the father of 10 children, he and his wife do little more than tolerate each other’s company.
The movie centers on Dickens’ production of a play where he meets a lady by the name of Mrs. Frances Ternan and her three daughters. He immediately becomes enchanted with her youngest, Nelly, and a secret affair develops that lasts the remainder of his life.
If you possess caustic traits similar to Meryl Streep in the appalling August: Osage County, you would simply dismiss Dickens as dumping his aging wife in favor of a far more attractive teenager. However, the film goes much deeper, and affords both Dickens and Nelly the ability to wrestle with the consequences of a relationship that is going to leave both of them dancing on the edge of a social cliff.
Felicity Jones breathes life into Nelly, and she has an intelligent presence that accompanies her young beauty. In addition, one of my favorite actors, Kristen Scott Thomas, stands out in her role as Nelly’s mother, a woman who understood that a daughter’s best interest often transcends moral judgment.
However, Mr. Fiennes is again at the top of his game, and that should come as no surprise. This is a beguiling actor who has been unforgettable in such classic performances as the Nazi villain in Schindler’s List (1993), the distraught lover in The English Patient (1996) and the villain Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series.
However, it is the small roles where Mr. Fiennes has also demonstrated his admirable talents. If you doubt that, hunt down his stunning role as Maurice Bendix, a decent, conflicted man who must accept losing the love of his life in The End of the Affair (1999). Or watch his enchanting villain in the tiny hit everyone should see, In Bruges (2008), not to mention his recent performance in the Bond film Skyfall (2012), where you drew the feeling that he would likely replace Judi Dench as M in any future sequels.
Here, Fiennes’ Dickens must publicly leave his wife while denying the existence of Nelly. Nelly is forced to live as if she doesn’t publicly exist, a price she is willing to pay to be with a genius who she personally adores.
While The Invisible Woman is not a film that everyone will want to see, it does challenge the viewer to consider that moment that haunts nearly everyone. More to the point, Mr. Fiennes again confronts the issue of trying to hang on to a forbidden love as he previously did in both the above-mentioned The English Patient and The End of the Affair.
It makes you wonder if Mr. Fiennes is happily married.