The Invisible Woman

2013

The Invisible Woman

Critics 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.

75%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 154

44%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 6,784
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Movie Info

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

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Cast

Ralph Fiennes
as Charles Dickens
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
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Critic Reviews for The Invisible Woman

All Critics (154) | Top Critics (47)

  • Felicity Jones gives a strong depiction of repressed emotion. Up against Fiennes' Dickens -- all bonhomie, energy, mercurial self-consciousness -- she's a melancholy figure.

    Apr 16, 2014 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • Fiennes has neither disgraced, nor distinguished himself, with this solemn soap. He wants to tell Nelly's story but the real woman - and the man she spent 13 years of her life with - slips through his fingers.

    Feb 7, 2014 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • This is an engrossing drama, with excellent performances and tremendous design by Maria Djurkovic.

    Feb 6, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Fiennes' abusive romance makes visible the hidden hypocrisies of the Victorian age.

    Feb 6, 2014 | Rating: 4/5
  • The sheer warmth and liveliness of Fiennes's Dickens means he's impossible not to like.

    Feb 4, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Dave Calhoun

    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.

    Jan 24, 2014 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

    Tom Long

    Detroit News
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Invisible Woman

  • Jul 27, 2014
    Starring and directed by the talented Ralph Fiennes, The Invisible Woman sheds light on a chapter of the life of Charles Dickens unfamiliar with many, that of his affair with the young Nelly Ternan. Fiennes treats his subject with great respect and seriousness, making Invisible Woman a very weighty film. It's methodically paced yet very well executed. The story evolves slowly, yet organically, and treats the characters with such respect, it's a hard film not to admire. As with any period piece, its world building is a huge part of its success. With Invisible Woman, Fiennes creates a very believable Victorian-era world, one with bubbling progressive ideas yet still stifled by its more conservative, austere, ways. His Charles Dickens is an intellectual, gentle, and passionate man, yet one with just enough detachment to those around him so as to fuel his creative eccentricity. Enter the charismatic Felicity Jones, someone whose earnestness no doubt earns Dickens's affections. This relationship is conveyed with great authenticity, with fine performances by both, especially Jones, who conveys a great deal of emotional nuance. The dynamic between the two anchors the film, and serves as a gateway to an interesting character study of Dickens, who tragically dejects himself from his wife and family, yet does so out of honesty. He's a man who strives to be good, though not always sure how to do it. The film can be slow for those not involved with the narrative, but I found the film to be largely enthralling, with convincing portrayals, authentically rendered characters, and a message that resonates. 4/5 Stars
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer
  • Jun 27, 2014
    "Invisible woman, stay away from me; invisible woman, mama, let me be! Don't come a-hangin' around my door, I don't wanna see your face no more, so it's a good thing you're invisible!" I'd say it worked out for Charles Dickens in that case, if that song really does fit his opinion of the titular invisible woman, but I don't know who would want Felicity Jones to be invisible, or how exactly you could hide those teeth in the first place. Man, as tough a life as Charles Dickens had, he deserves him a pretty, visible girl, but he can't even get that, or even for her to be Jessica Alba when you can see her. Jokes aside, for those of you who wanted a more sophisticated "Fantastic Four" film, first off, the guy who watches movies for a living says that you seriously need a life, and secondly, this is the closest you're going to get. Seriously, considering that Ralph Fiennes has experience as a cartoonishly evil villain who can kill people with electricity or something, and who has a ridiculous name, I can kind of see him as Victor von Doom, and if that annoys you art snobs to no end, I might just be thinking of that because I was working hard at picturing a more exciting film than this one. No, the film is decent, a little more so than I feared, even though it does hit such missteps as one that I was expecting: doing what one might expect out of a filmy like this. The film goes so far as to resort to questionable storytelling moves to change up, if you will, "pace", and often actually handles tropes particularly well, but no matter how well-handled, tropes stand throughout this near-hopelessly formulaic period drama, which frustrates all the more by typically lacking in all that much to begin with. Natural shortcomings stand rock solid in their firmness within this relatively inconsequential study on some mere filler in the complicated life of Charles Dickens, which is interesting, I suppose, but nothing special, so much so that natural shortcomings stand as the final product's great issues. I go ahead and address the biggest problem with the film, largely to stress just how thin the depths of this drama are without great developmental shortcomings, because even though characterization is adequate, there's still something rather thin about it, having only so many layers to feed dramatic momentum which is shaken up enough by the aforementioned conceptual thinness to plot, as well as plotting's really dragging its feet when it's not undercooking things. With all of my complaints about how this film brushes over certain developmental attributes, a much bigger issue in pacing is, of course, the dragging which gets this film of limited consequence to a relatively hefty runtime of nearly two hours, on the back of meandering filler that overpowers actual material so harshly and so often that plotting focus goes lost. The film is just plain aimless, and not just on paper, but in feel, because if there's no other questionable decision, it's Ralph Fiennes' directorial move of keeping the film as dry as he can get it, with a thoughtfulness that is reasonably entertaining when Abi Morgan's scripted wit really comes to life, as well as touching when dramatic material comes to highlights, but predominantly, not simply boring, but cold and distancing in resonance. The natural shortcomings were always going to prove to be a serious, serious challenge to the reward value of the film, but perhaps the final product would have stood a chance of transcending underwhelmingness if it wasn't so blasted cold, dulling as it meanders through a formulaic and unfocused plot, until it is more like a challenge to one's patience. Of course, no matter how much it was tried, my patience held out enough for the final product to actually come somewhat close to rewarding, largely thanks to, of all things, the stellar artistic value. The film is predominantly reliant on a quiet dryness that is annoying enough when it simply keeps you from frequently embracing a score by Ilan Eshkeri that proves to be quite the treat when it does come into play, with a tasteful, often avant-garde classical sting that nails the film's era and elegantly weighty tone, even if it does so a tad formulaically, and not nearly as consistently as art direction by Nick Dent and Sarah Stuart that really shows you where the money went, for it is simply marvelous in its utilizing Maria Djurkovic's thoroughly intricate production designs and Michael O'Connor's gorgeous costume designs in order to restore 19th century England so impeccably that it is haunting. The visuals throughout the film are captivating in their distinction, and are just plain awe-inspiring before the lens of Rob Hardy, whose cinematographic performance, as one of the best of 2013, takes your breath away with an almost gothic emphasis on rugged coloration contrasting with potent lighting in a manner that captures the brighter environments as lively, and the dark environments as gritty, while keeping consistent in truly devastating beauty. Substance may be lacking here, but in terms of aesthetic value, I must say that the film is a borderline masterpiece, being so immersive with its art direction and so breathtaking in its visual style that it's impossible to not be rather charmed by the final product's more artistic qualities. There is yet more charm within a cast full of talents, at least until the plot thickens, establishing some dramatic material that the performers - particularly leads Ralph Fiennes and Felicity Jones - run with, with nuance and emotional realization that kind of carry the heart of this character drama. To be fair, the performers have more commendable material to work with than not, because as much as I gripe about Abi Morgan's script's being both underdeveloped and draggy, slow spells are challenged by blisteringly clever dialogue and a certain razor-sharp sense of sophisticated humor, while more realized moments in characterization help to define what potential there is in this story concept. Once again, this story isn't particularly consequential as a dramatic character study, but it is still kind of interesting, dissecting secrets and the passion of Charles Dickens and his peers with a tastefulness that Fiennes, as director, is faithful to, albeit all too often to a point of crippling dryness that is sometimes emotionally cold, yet still often to a point of soaking up those subtle dramatic beats as anything from transportive in its fitting the delicate tone of the drama, to somewhat moving. I must say that I went into this film fearing that I would be in for something of a misfire in steady dramatic storytelling, and while the glimpses of a much more rewarding film are few and far between, their presence is worthy of patience as instrumental factors in making a decent drama that some might embrace as rewarding, in spite of issues that won't be so forgivable for others. Once it all fades, a conventional and thin story is made all the more bland by questionably layered characterization, aimless dragging and, worst of all, crushingly bland, if not cold dry spells in direction, until the final product falls into underwhelmingness, but not as deeply as it would have were it not for the beautifully experimental score work, stunningly intricate art direction, and utterly mesmerizing cinematography, as well as strong acting, - especially by the leads - intelligent writing and tasteful direction which secure Ralph Fiennes' "The Invisible Woman" as an at least borderline rewarding, if somewhat misguided portrait on Charles Dickens' secret passion. 2.75/5 - Decent
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jun 04, 2014
    Very engaging British biographical drama directed by Ralph Fiennes and starring Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Tom Hollander. Written by Abi Morgan, and based on the book The Invisible Woman by Claire Tomalin, the story of the film is about the secret love affair between Charles Dickens and Nelly Ternan, which lasted for thirteen years until his death in 1870. This movie will have an ability to transfer you to the era so realistically that even people who were never interested in history could not forget it. That was the reason it received a Best Costume Design nomination (Michael O'Connor) at the 86th Academy Awards. Fiennes' participation as director was announced in July 2011, and he did not know much about Dickens before taking on the project: He even admitted that he was ignorant. "I had only read Little Dorrit. I knew his obvious ones-Nicholas Nickleby, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations-through adaptations. And Christmas Carol. I didn't know much about the man." Fiennes initially approached another actor to play the role of Dickens but it did not work out and he eventually played the part, and I have to say he did a great job! Fiennes and Morgan often met with Tomalin who provided guidance, but she wished to remain outside the actual screenwriting. If you like movies which have extraordinary delicacy and cinematic intelligence, this could be your choice! Very smooth and sublime poetic introduction into the relationship will gradually unfold to a real love story with no limits, and that was done masterfully! Enjoyable!
    Panta O Super Reviewer
  • Apr 26, 2014
    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 M Super Reviewer

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