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The Invisible Woman


Year: 2013 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Ralph Fiennes 
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas  

Adapted from Claire Tomalin’s biography of the same name, The Invisible Woman explores the relationship between Charles Dickens and his secret mistress. Told from the perspective of the invisible woman herself, Nelly, (Felicity Jones) the film recalls her tumultuous relationship with the famous writer through a series of her guilt-ridden memories.

We first see Nelly in the late 1880s as the wife of a schoolmaster and mother of two children, still haunted by her association with Dickens (Ralph Fiennes) long after his death. Her relationship with her husband is built on deception: he is unaware of the intimacy of her past relationship with Dickens and believes she is ten years younger than she actually is. Delving into her memory, the audience now sees Nelly as an enchanting 18 year old actress involved in the production of one of Dickens’s plays. The attraction between the two is instantaneous, despite the 25 year age difference, and it soon becomes apparent to those close to Dickens, notably his wife Catherine (Joanna Scanlan).

The Invisible Woman is Fiennes’s second film as director, but it is his role as Dickens that is particularly noteworthy. Creating a sublime contrast between his lively public persona and his more introverted and cautious side, Fiennes succeeds in bringing a more accurate depiction of the renowned writer to the big screen. Attention to detail is certainly evident in the production of this film, with Fienne’s uncanny resemblance to Dickens, the recreation of Victorian Britain and stunning costumes that were nominated for an Academy Award. The most intriguing element about this film though is the power relationship between the two. This is no clichéd love story of seduction; Jones wonderfully portrays Nelly as a young woman hesitant to forgo propriety.

Overall The Invisible Woman is wonderfully crafted film, particularly in regards to its dual time frames that serve to compliment rather than undermine each other. The sensitive performance of Felicity Jones successfully brings to life a complex and emotionally divided character and makes this film worth a watch.

Jess Walker

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Screenings of this film:

2013/2014 Summer Term (digital)