Film Review: The Invisible Woman

The following is a guest post.

The Film Fatales air Charles Dickens’ dirty laundry!

The Invisible Woman
In theaters.
Rated R.
111 minutes.
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas, Tom Hollander.
Directed by Ralph Fiennes.


At the height of his career, Charles Dickens meets a younger woman who becomes his secret lover until his death. [IMDb]

Nicole: A scant two years prior to my entering college, the juicy morsels of Charles Dickens’ private life surfaced in a new biography (by Claire Tomalin). When I studied his work at university, the details of his messy separation and his secret relationship with Nelly Ternan were a hot topic. From what I understood, Dickens was no picnic to be around. He was believed by many to be temperamental, vindictive, ego-centric, and insensitive – all of which was counter to his books and his philanthropic habits. So naturally, I expected to encounter an unlikable Dickens in Ralph Fiennes’ The Invisible Woman.

Elizabeth:  Temperamental, vindictive, ego-centric, and insensitive – I put those characteristics down in my eHarmony profile. Still waiting for Mr. Right to respond. Call me. Yes, I did read about Dickens not being a jolly fellow, but do we know of or hear about really happy authors and artists? I think it sadly comes with the terorrity. And it seems that their torment gives us beautiful words and artwork that leaves us breathless. I found Ralph Fiennes’ Dickens to be quite charming and attentive to details and everyone he encountered, but Charles Dickens had a dark side that I think was explored. It was subtle, very, very subtle. His arrogance and ego-centric behavior was quite evident to me. You could see it and feel it in the disappointment of some who crossed his path.

fiennes and jones

Nicole: It’s shocking you haven’t gotten a response yet to your eHarmony profile… There is certainly enough evidence, especially regarding the details of Dickens’ cruel treatment of his wife prior and post separation, to prove this depiction of Dickens is not historically accurate. But, Ralph Fiennes does do a fine job of painting the popular image of the famed author with a deft brush. He captures the man’s genius, which garnered adoration not entirely dissimilar to that of today’s A-List celebs. But, perhaps, he’s treated too reverentially in this portrait because there’s really no getting around his dirty laundry.

Elizabeth: Times were different back then and there might be some exaggeration on what really transpired. To announce your separation in the newspaper was a new one to me and the poor suffering wife who was depicted as an ice queen was quite the opposite. I think these scenes painted a cruel Dickens, but like I remarked earlier – it was subtle. And, this was a “love” story so how could you hate the protagonist? I loved Fiennes’ portrayal of Dickens, but I kept thinking that this man might have been a nasty old man, also. 

Nicole: Felicity Jones, who portrays Dickens’ young mistress (she was 18; he 45 when they met), brings us a brooding and haunting performance of a woman forever chased by her past. She does a good job of expressing the conflicts of her unique relationship with Dickens. At first, she balks at the idea of being the other woman, but through no lack of encouragement on her family’s part (specifically her mother, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, who saw Dickens as a financial shelter for her struggling family), but eventually she acquiesces into what is clearly devotion.

fiennes and jones in the invisible woman

Elizabeth: Felicity Jones and the rest of the cast who surrounded Fiennes made it a memorable movie for me — from the knowing glances between lovers and to Jones’ Nelly trying to bring all the pieces together that would be her life after Dickens’ death. This period film seemed to stay true to the look and feel of England at the time of Dickens and in the words of Dickens, “Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape” (Great Expectations).

Nicole: The film does offer us an interesting peek into Dickens’ private life, but I’d recommend reading some of the historical accounts to gain a fuller perspective. On its own standing though, it’s a fine period piece that’s satisfyingly engrossing.

The Film Fatales give THE INVISIBLE WOMAN 


All images © 2014 Sony Pictures Digital Productions Inc. All rights reserved.

The Film Fatales are two acid-tongued, sassy broads who rant and rave about the best and worst of modern and classic cinema. Elizabeth Cassidy is an artist, creativity coach for artists and writers, an award-winning blogger and the fifth Beatle. To know Elizabeth is to be slightly afraid of her. Avid blogger and smart-arse, Nicole Dauenhauer is an advertising copywriter by day and an aspiring fiction/non-fiction writer by night. She’s an incorrigible Anglophile whose inner voice speaks in a British accent and prefers her Earl Grey with milk and sugar – not lemon.


  1. says

    Great review! My favorite part: “Temperamental, vindictive, ego-centric, and insensitive – I put those characteristics down in my eHarmony profile. Still waiting for Mr. Right to respond. Call me.” Elizabeth, you crack me up! It sounds like this is a typical white-washed portrayal of an historical character (not that there’s anything wrong with that… I like my history sanitized to make me feel less uncomfortable about the people we’ve been taught to admire). I look forward to seeing it someday.

    • says

      I agree – Elizabeth is a riot! This is one of several reviews I’ve read and adored. Keep up the great work, ladies! Maybe one day you’ll get your own (well-deserved) TV show. If you do, I’ll be watching. :)

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