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The Invisible Woman

Ralph Fiennes’ restrained and intimate period romance centring on the affair between Charles Dickens and actress Nelly Ternan.


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  • Director Ralph Fiennes
  • Producers Gabrielle Tana, Stewart Mackinnon, Christian Baute, Carolyn Marks Blackwood
  • Screenwriter Abi Morgan
  • With Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas, Tom Hollander
  • UK 2013
  • 111 mins
  • UK distribution Lionsgate UK

Visually striking and dramatically refined, Ralph Fiennes’ (Coriolanus) impeccably directed second feature centres on the secret affair between Charles Dickens (Fiennes) and the young actress Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones) which commenced at the height of his career, when she was just 18, and lasted until his death. Their love story unfolds from the perspective of Nelly some years later as she directs a group of village boys in a stage rendition of The Frozen Deep, the production on which she first met Dickens. Her intimate knowledge of the text brings back a flood of disquieting memories of her time with Dickens, threatening to disrupt the stability of her new life. Fiennes’ nuanced direction of Abi Morgan’s (The Iron Lady, Shame) screenplay illuminates the exquisite pain of their affair: the moral dilemma for Dickens, whose marriage and family life unravels as he begins to court Nelly; and the sense of entrapment for Nelly as she is forced to live her love in secret, or not at all. Based on the biographical book by Claire Tomalin, and featuring a terrific cast (including Kristin Scott Thomas as Nelly’s mother and Tom Hollander as Wilkie Collins), this restrained and intimate period romance also gracefully lays bare the gender politics of the era.

Clare Stewart

The screening on Saturday 19 October will have subtitles.

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