Three years late watching this movie, I finally sat down and streamed it last night on Amazon for $3.99 – The Invisible Woman. Frankly, I had forgotten it existed until the Period Drama Appreciation Society on Facebook brought it up as a suggestion. By the way, it’s a great group of 8,500 (probably mostly women) who are crazy about period drama from all over the world. It’s a good group to join to get recommendations.
Charles Dickens. A name known by many, and an author who has gone down in history. Married and having sired ten children of his own, his now fat wife no longer interests him in spite of the fact he’s an older gentleman. His treatment of her in the movie is atrocious, and whether fully true, I’m not sure. He announces in the paper that he has separated from his wife. At home, he has a handyman board up the door that adjoins their bedroom. His wife is well aware that his affections have turned toward an 18-year old young lady, who is an actress and a mediocre one at that.
The movie, having received a not-so-warm reception upon release, is a bit odd. Directed and starring Ralph Fiennes, I will admit he did quite well portraying the exuberant writer who loves his audience. His joy in life is telling a good tale that makes people think and tugs at the heart of its readers. Nevertheless, on a personal note, his pursuit of the young Ellen “Nelly” Ternan is born from her admiration of his skill and love of his work. Apparently, his fat wife does not possess the ability to adore him for his pen and brilliant mind, unlike Nelly who gushes with girlish adoration.
Of course, this is the Victorian era and men had mistresses. Nevertheless, the obvious truth behind closed doors was not flaunted because society and religion knew it to be a scandal and sin. Thus enters the “silent woman,” who cannot tell the world of her affair with Dickens. She is kept hidden and well-cared for by the author, splitting his time between her and his adoring fans.
The movie portrays his mistress, Nelly, as a pining and broken hearted woman who looks upon her past with sadness. Now married and with a child of her own, her lover has died and life has gone on physically. The movie attempts drags us through her depression by multiple long walks on the beach as it flips back and forth between the present and the past. The flips don’t always work, and perhaps it’s the way the tale focuses on her “blues” that makes it irritating. Dickens’ coldness toward his wife and treatment is an abomination to watch, which takes your likeness of him as a man and turns it stone cold. There are extremely slow and painful scenes of intimacies between the two, which itch your finger toward pushing the fast-forward button.
Nevertheless, the scandalous tale of Dicken’s true-life romance with an eighteen-year-old girl when he was forty-five, is an interesting peek into a man that many admire. What is the truth behind it all? If you read some of the reviews on Amazon, you’ll discover quite a few historical corrections regarding the affair and how it all played out in real life. As for this version, I felt no empathy for Nelly or Dickens.
If you’re a period drama movie junkie, you might enjoy and then again you might not. I gave it 3 Kernels for your lovers of the Victorian era.