Ralph Fiennes’ The Invisible Woman is beautifully shot and well acted. Unfortunately, it is also rather dull.
Nelly Ternan is an aspiring young actress from a family of performers. When she meets author Charles Dickens at the height of his career, the pair begin a friendship that will have significant consequences to both their lives…
Ralph Fiennes’ second directorial outing is a period drama based on Charles Dickens and his relationship with the young Nelly Ternan. The Invisible Woman‘s narrative unfolds at a glacial pace. There is some substance to the actual story, which screenwriter Abi Morgan based on Claire Tomalin’s book. However, the few scenes of ardour do not balance out the rest of the film, which feels stripped of passion.
The film concentrates on the developing relationship between Dickens and the young actress. The focus, as the title suggests, is more on Nelly. Given the framing device employed, it would have been interesting to briefly account for the time in between the periods that the film depicts.
The Invisible Woman portrays Charles Dickens as an interesting and charismatic fellow. It is not difficult to see why people where drawn to him. There is not much to Nelly besides a pervading feeling of forlornness. It is difficult to be excited by this protagonist.
The Invisible Woman is beautifully shot by Fiennes. There are plenty of close ups to give a sense of intensity, especially combined with a good use of lighting. The costumes are also great. Fiennes makes a convincing Charles Dickens, whilst Joanna Scanlan puts in a fantastic turn as Catherine Dickens.
The Invisible Woman looks the part of a sumptuous period drama, but falls flat in terms of generating emotion and an engrossing narrative.
The Invisible Woman is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2013.