Ralph Fiennes makes an impressive follow-up to his directorial debut Coriolanus with The Invisible Woman, about the affair Charles Dickens had with actress Nelly Ternan.
Felicity Jones, who plays Nelly, is fast becoming one of my favourite actresses. She is particularly excellent here, and is ably supported Kristin Scott Thomas as her mother and Joanna Scanlan as Dickens’ wife Catherine. Tom Hollander crops up as Dickens contemporary Wilkie Collins, and Fiennes himself, brilliant as usual, takes the role of Dickens.
The public loved Dickens but his private life contained, as he admitted himself, a great deal of failure. Much of what takes place in the film is speculation, but Abi Morgan’s screenplay (based on Claire Tomalin’s book) does a good job of showing the kinds of difficult choices that would have been faced by Nelly, especially at the height of Victorian Britain. Dickens charitable work is also touched on, and fans of his novels, especially Great Expectations, will also enjoy seeing what might have provided some of his inspiration (for the record, I take the Wilkie Collins view on that book – it is better with the more optimistic ending).
All things considered, The Invisible Woman is well worth a look. Fiennes has put together a very fine piece of work (sorry, couldn’t resist it).