Monday, 24 February 2014


I found this quite tedious.
Ralph Fiennes, as Charles Dickens late in life, himself directs this film telling of the author's infatuation with a young woman, Ellen Ternan (Felicity Jones), several decades his junior, whilst he's still living with his wife who, after having endured multiple childbirths, has physically expanded into a Junoesque figure and no longer of interest to him, not intellectually and certainly not amatory. The lack of feeling is mutual, though because of the writer's status, and the 'male-superiority' mores of the time it is he who can call the shots in their loveless marriage, employing a degree of dismissive cruelty towards her. Being the mega-celebrity of his age through his publications and public readings he struggles to keep his potentially shocking affair from being general knowledge, finding himself having to deny gossip, despite his attempts being ultimately futile.
Kristin Scott Thomas is the acquiescing mother who, while knowing what a catch the man is for her daughter, is fearful for the girl's reputation, particularly in the light of Dickens' public married state.
Tom Hollander plays a lively Wilkie Collins, famed author himself and Dickens' friend, living openly with his common-law wife, he not believing in the institution of marriage.

There are a number of slow-moving scenes, especially between the two central characters, where dialogue is minimal or absent altogether. I suppose these were intended to be 'artistic', though the absence of music as well as words made them just about bearable. If they'd been set with cloying music it would have been insufferable. But to me they were self-conscious and rather tiresome. However, more crucially, I experienced no detectable emotional charge between Fiennes and Jones, though there surely must have been some as I'd imagine that he would have had a large part in selecting who should play his love interest. If any was there I didn't see it transferred onto the screen.

I thought the peripheral characters, notably K Scott Thomas and Hollander, were of far greater interest than the two central ones, and those were the only times when the film came alive. (Incidentally, during the film I had leisure to muse on whether this is the first film in which Fiennes and Kristen S T have appeared together  since the absurdly over-garlanded 'The English Patient' of 1996, a film which has all but been forgotten now.)

I'll stick my neck out and say that I think I may have known a little more about the background story than some members of the audience and I had hoped that because of this it would have held my interest, but it didn't really. (Though I was pleased to see the famous train crash depicted).

As an enthusiast of the novelist's works I can't honestly recommend this. Another Dickens fan, the esteemed Dr Spo, may beg to differ. As it is, I endow this film with an unexceptional..................4/10.


  1. This one will get a wide berth from me. which is a shame as I quite fancy Ralph Fiennes, (he and Ranulph are closer to the Monarchy lineage than the Queen from the books I have read).

    1. I think the subject matter may be enough to pull in a number of those who wouldn't otherwise have bothered, Sol. I don't recall it having been in a feature film before. But everyone will take away from it something different, perhaps more positive than I did, so I wouldn''t say to anyone "Do not see this."

      Ah, the much-trumpeted 'blood-line' of our monarchs!
      I wasn't aware of what you say about the Fiennes, but it doesn't surprise me when one is aware of how tenuous the supposed 'continuity' is. Just one instance - when during Queen Anne's reign, the 1701 Act of Settlement decreed that no future monarch could be a Roman Catholic or married to one, it automatically disqualified dozens of candidates closer in blood relationship than those who eventually succeeded. On that Queen's death in 1714 I've heard it said that the Elector of Hanover who was offered the crown and accepted it as George the First, would actually have been 58th in succession were it not for the exclusions laid down by that Act. And then there are all the earlier conquests by eventual monarchs less close in blood line to their predecessors than certain of their rivals. So much for the 'unbroken chain' which some continue to claim!

    2. Oops! 1701 - William III was still on the throne, of course, to be succeeded by Anne the following year.

  2. Look like a great film. I am not really such a Dickens fan but this film looks like one worth watching.

    1. You might be able to 'tune into it' more readily than I was, L.L.
      I haven't said above that all the while watching it I was distracted by having to fight my heavy cold, trying like mad not to cough in those long periods of silence. So give it a go by all means and you may have a pleasant experience.