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Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Invisible Woman – review | Mark Kermode

The Invisible Woman, other films Felicity Jones as Nelly Ternan in the 'chilly but engaging' The Invisible Woman. Photograph: David Appleby

Ralph Fiennes may be the director and star of this handsomely mounted tale of the private life of Charles Dickens, but it's Felicity Jones who makes it fly. She plays Nelly Ternan, a young actress of indeterminate talent who captures the author's eye and heart, but wrestles (philosophically, morally, practically) with the idea of becoming his mistress.

The Invisible WomanProduction year: 2013Countries: UK, USA Runtime: 111 minsDirectors: Ralph FiennesCast: Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas, Michelle Fairley, Ralph Fiennes, Tom HollanderMore on this film

Seen in flashback from the perspective of the now married Nelly, tormented by the memories of her affair, the story unfolds in chilly but engaging fashion, with Abi Morgan's typically insightful script taking its lead from Claire Tomalin's book.

At the heart of Nelly's dilemma is a gender inequality that Morgan's screenplay lays bare; the progressive "freedom" from marriage that Dickens and cohort Wilkie Collins (Tom Hollander) merrily espouse is a liberty for men only.

Expressing much while often saying little, Jones proves once again to be a mesmerising screen presence, a performer behind whose face you can see the most complex and subtle thought processes at work. Accordingly, Fiennes keeps his direction restrained, concentrating on small moments rather than grand gestures to powerful effect.

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