The Invisible Woman (2013)



Critic Consensus: Its deliberate pace will frustrate some viewers, but for fans of handsomely mounted period drama, The Invisible Woman offers visual as well as emotional cinematic nourishment.

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Nelly (Felicity Jones), a happily-married mother and schoolteacher, is haunted by her past. Her memories, provoked by remorse and guilt, take us back in time to follow the story of her relationship with Charles Dickens (Ralph Fiennes) with whom she discovered an exciting but fragile complicity. Dickens - famous, controlling and emotionally isolated within his success - falls for Nelly, who comes from a family of actors. The theatre is a vital arena for Dickens - a brilliant amateur actor - a man more emotionally coherent on the page or on stage, than in life. As Nelly becomes the focus of Dickens' passion and his muse, for both of them secrecy is the price, and for Nelly a life of "invisibility".(c) Sony Classics
R (for some sexual content)
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Written By:
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Ralph Fiennes
as Charles Dickens
Kristin Scott Thomas
as Mrs. Ternan
Tom Hollander
as Wilkie Collins
Michael Marcus
as Charley Dickens
Joanna Scanlan
as Catherine Dickens
Perdita Weeks
as Maria Ternan
Tom Burke
as Mr. George Wharton
John Kavanagh
as Reverend Benham
Amanda Hale
as Fanny Ternan
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for The Invisible Woman

All Critics (142) | Top Critics (42)

The sheer warmth and liveliness of Fiennes's Dickens means he's impossible not to like.

Full Review… | February 3, 2014
Time Out
Top Critic

Fiennes and screenwriter Abi Morgan adapt Claire Tomalin's book with delicate grace, presenting love as blessing, curse and, perhaps, inevitable force.

Full Review… | January 23, 2014
Detroit News
Top Critic

Why did this bright, vivacious, intellectually engaged girl willingly lock herself up in a wealthy man's seraglio? Put bluntly, what did she get out of it? In the end, "The Invisible Woman" remains a mystery.

Full Review… | January 23, 2014
Top Critic

It's wonderfully cast ... and beautifully designed; a quiet pleasure.

January 23, 2014
Seattle Times
Top Critic

An air of complacency hangs over the project; its condemnation of Victorian sexism makes us congratulate ourselves for our more enlightened views.

Full Review… | January 23, 2014
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Even if you don't entirely buy this version of events, director Ralph Fiennes has given us a speculation that works as drama. It's an elegant bit of goods.

Full Review… | January 23, 2014
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Invisible Woman


The costume design and art direction are outstanding, though the usually reduced depth of field stands a bit in the way, and in its first half the story develops well the characters' mutual affinity but later sinks with Nelly's contrived, unconvincing feelings of being left aside by Dickens.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

Fiennes does well in his directorial debut, a look at early media sensation Charles Dickens and his choice to have an affair with a much younger woman in a time when such activity was frowned on and despite his very large family. The times are convincingly reconstructed but somehow the connection is muted. He wants her for the sex, and she wants security (same as it ever was) and so it was a chore caring about either of the leads, despite their being well played.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


The Invisible Woman details a specific period of a particular time. The 13 year relationship between Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens is not just a tale of love but of pain and regret as well. Occasionally the focus on this exclusive detail of the author's life doesn't always sustain the narrative. But more often than not, the production captures an era when traditional moral attitudes were held dear. Outwardly, Dickens was the passionate defender of home and family. But secretly his heart belonged to another . Even after separating from his wife, he continued to keep his association with Nelly a secret for fear of damaging her reputation. There were rumors, but he consistently maintained in public that Nelly was nothing less than a chaste woman. This endured for the rest of his life until 1870 when he died. These conventions seem archaic to modern audiences, but those social mores made this couple's guarded behavior necessary. Breaking implied codes of decency would condemn a woman's standing in the community. The threat forced people at least to maintain the appearance of adhering to accepted societal customs. I can understand why someone wouldn't appreciate the film's deliberate pace but that is precisely what I loved about it.

Mark Hobin
Mark Hobin

Super Reviewer

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