Set in 1930s Shanghai, where a blind American diplomat develops a curious relationship with a young Russian refugee who works odd -- and sometimes illicit -- jobs to support members of her dead husband's aristocratic family.
Poet Raphael de Valentin is down on his luck until a friend introduces him into society. He meets the Countess Fedora, and after she reads his poems, his work becomes an overnight sensation... See full summary »
In the 1850s, Ellen Ternan is a minimally talented actress who catches the eye of the hailed British author, Charles Dickens. Bored with his intellectually unstimulating wife, Dickens takes the educated Ellen as his mistress with the cooperation of her mother. What follows is a stormy relationship with this literary giant who provides her with a life few women of her time can enjoy. Yet, Ellen is equally revolted by Charles' emotional cruelty and determination to keep her secret. In that conflict, Ellen must judge her own role in her life and decide if the price she pays is bearable.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
Ralph Fiennes and Felicity Jones, who play lovers in this movie, also worked together in Cemetery Junction (2010), in which they played father and daughter. In a 2013 interview with Jones and Fiennes on NPR, Jones said that it was "weird" and "very Freudian" to go from playing one relationship to the other, but Fiennes disagreed, saying "It's just a job. Come on." See more »
Very early in the film, Dickens introduces a member of his acting troupe as "Mr. Berger" with a 'soft' g, like a j; moments later, he refers to him as "Mr. Berger" with the g pronounced as 'hard'. There's no explanation for this discrepancy. See more »
Mr. George Wharton Robinson:
Our boys' curriculum is very wide. They perform a short play at the end of every term. Theater's an abiding interest of my wife... Ah, Mary, tea if you please.
Mr. George Wharton Robinson:
Through the open door... Nelly, where were you? Mr. Benham has been here since 3:00.
I'm so sorry. Mr. Lambourne has been organizing the boys best he can.
I lost all sense of time...
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The full cast list (in order of appearance) is presented in the style of a Dickens era theatre programme, with contemporary font and the performers' names preceded by "Mr." or "Ms." See more »
Beautifully Photographed and Powerfully Staged, Yet Somehow Unsatisfying
Abi Morgan's screenplay, based on Claire Tomalin's book of the same name, tells the story of Charles Dickens' (Ralph Fiennes') affair with 18-year-old Ellen ("Nelly") Ternan (Felicity Jones). The film contains some memorable visual images: both Dickens and Nelly are seen staring out of a train window, their reflections seen in the glass, suggesting imprisonment, both mental and physical. There is a recurring image of Nelly walking across the deserted beach in Margate, Kent; like Dickens she had grown fond on brisk walks, but this walk suggests that she is going nowhere fast - an apt metaphor for her love-affair with Dickens. The interiors are photographed in dark colors, with an eye for pictorial detail reminiscent of GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING (2003); they seem claustrophobic, hemming Nelly in as she tries to come to terms with her feelings. There is one memorable sequence in fellow author Wilkie Collins' (Tom Hollander's) house, where director Fiennes' camera focuses on her face as she looks wildly from side to side; she just has to run outside at any cost, in order to sustain her sanity. The film focuses relentlessly on the two protagonists; there is very little music on the soundtrack, and all we can hear in the background is the crackle of the fire, the drip of the tap, or the rustle of the trees. Through such strategies director Fiennes forces us to concentrate on the characters' feelings. Yet despite these moments of technical and visual brilliance, the film remains uncertain about its moral priorities. On the one hand Dickens is presented as a family man, perpetually concerned with doing the right thing; but he cannot escape the moral consequences of his actions. He treats his wife and family shamefully and insists at one point that he can have a lover and still sustain his public image. From then on, everything he tries to do to improve Nelly's position - buying her a new house, fixing her up with an acting job - only makes things worse. He lacks the moral strength to do the right thing, however much he protests otherwise. We are left to wonder exactly what Fiennes thinks of Dickens, as it's not clear how he is presented in the film.
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