"Famous Author Leaves His Wife for Another Woman"
What You Need To Know:
THE INVISIBLE WOMAN is a period drama set in the 1850s to 1880s. It’s about the 13-year illicit affair between author Charles Dickens and Ellen “Nelly” Ternan, an English actress. Dickens and Nelly meet in 1857, some 21 years after Dickens began his career as a novelist and journalist and 21 years into his marriage with Catherine Hogarth. The father of 10 children, Dickens starts spending time with Nelly and her acting family, including her actress mother and two sisters, also actresses. Within a year, a mistaken delivery of some jewelry leads Dickens to publicly separate from his wife. However, he and Nelly continue trying to keep their affair secret.
THE INVISIBLE WOMAN is beautifully photographed, especially in its exterior scenes. The movie shows why Dickens was so charismatic in public and among his friends, but it’s dramatically subdued. The movie’s final message is that to love and be loved is the point of life. However, there are negative as well as positive connotations in the movie about this. Also, THE INVISIBLE WOMAN contains two brief bedroom scenes, so it’s not acceptable viewing.
(RoRoRo, B, C, L, V, SS, N, A, D, M) Very strong Romantic worldview about a famous adulterous affair involving Charles Dickens and an actress, with some side comments about flaunting social conventions, especially in scenes with their friend, author Wilkie Collins, who says he doesn’t believe in marriage at all himself, with some light positive moral, redemptive aspects to the movie’s contention that “to love and be loved” is the point of life, including a religious clergyman helps the mistress after Dickens has died, and she’s married another man; one English obscenity; a violent train derailment occurs, with some light blood shown on injured victims; two briefly depicted sex scenes, one between a married couple and one between a married man and his mistress but nothing explicit is shown, plus brief adulterous kissing in one scene and Dickens walks some London streets at night and is approached by prostitutes but tries to buy off one of them so that she’ll go home but she laughs; partial rear and side female nudity when Charles Dickens unexpectedly walks in on his very chubby wife dressing; alcohol use; brief smoking; and, mother of mistress seems to bless her daughter’s adulterous affair, Wilkie Collins cohabitates with a widow who has a child, Dickens treats his wife poorly, and they seem to have a loveless marriage after 10 children.
THE INVISIBLE WOMAN is a period drama about the 13-year adulterous affair between British author Charles Dickens (A CHRISTMAS CAROL, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, DAVID COPPERFIELD, and A TALE OF TWO CITIES) and Ellen “Nelly” Ternan, an English actress. The movie seems historical, but it’s not acceptable viewing.
The movie opens years after Dickens died, during Nelly’s marriage to George Wharton Robinson. Though married, Nelly still seems haunted by the affair for some reason, and a Church of England canon or priest named Benham offers his ear to Nelly for her story. Before she does, however, the movie flashes back to her affair with Dickens.
Some 21 years after he began his novelist career with THE PICKWICK PAPERS, Dickens and Nelly meet in 1857. Nelly has just turned 18. She and her acting family, including her widowed mother and one of her two sisters, perform in a play written by Dickens and author Wilkie Collins (THE WOMAN IN WHITE and THE MOONSTONE).
The movie very slowly develops the affair. Dickens, who was drawn to the theater at an early age, starts seeing the Ternan family regularly. He has clearly grown apart from his wife of 21 years, Catherine. After 10 children with Dickens, Catherine has put on some weight, and she apparently doesn’t share her husband’s passion for literature and theater. Dickens and Nelly begin talking at great length. Within the first year, a mistaken delivery of some jewelry leads Dickens to publicly separate from his wife. However, he and Nelly continue trying to keep their affair secret. They live together in France and England under an assumed name. Also, Dickens burns all of their private correspondence at one point. Divorce and remarriage at the time was out of the question for a man as famous and beloved as Dickens.
The movie skips over the circumstances of Dickens last years and eventually returns to the time of Nelly’s marriage with George Robinson. It ends with a flashback to her last line from the Dickens play where she met Dickens, which says that to love and be loved is the point of life.
THE INVISIBLE WOMAN is beautifully photographed, especially in its exterior scenes, by Director Ralph Fiennes. The movie shows why Dickens was so charismatic in public, and among his friends, but its story and tone is rather dramatically subdued. The biggest drama – and emotion – comes when Mrs. Dickens hears, through a newspaper clipping, that Dickens has decided to separate from her. This is to the movie’s credit, but the movie also suggests at the very end that the illicit affair between Dickens and Nelly was worth it because of “love.” The good news about the ending, however, is that the movie shows Nelly discussing Dickens with the church canon and getting over the remaining pain about the affair, including the fact that she could never marry Dickens. So, in the end, she decides to focus on the love she has with her husband and her child. Consequently, the movie’s last line about love has some positive aspects as well as negative ones.
There are other passionate, dramatic moments in the movie. For example, Nelly complains to Dickens about the way he’s treating her at one point. Also, Nelly and Dickens survive a famous train derailment at another point. Other than that, however, the movie is not as dramatic as it should be. The acting, however, is good, though the filmmakers don’t do much to age the mistress during the scenes involving her husband. THE INVISIBLE WOMAN also has two brief, somewhat subdued bedroom scenes, though it’s pretty clear what’s happening during the two scenes.