Both when I attended the Telluride Film Festival this past August and now upon The Invisible Woman’s release, I’ve been surprised by the lack of discussion surrounding the film. It’s the second directorial effort from a famous actor, Oscar-nominated Ralph Fiennes, and takes an in-depth look at a famed author, Charles Dickens. How could such a film go relatively unnoticed? Now that I’ve seen the film, it’s clear why; The Invisible Woman is completely competent, but a bit dull.
I do not mean to lambast the film; a muted response is not a negative one. The Invisible Woman is elegantly crafted, with all artists in front of and behind the camera operating with excellence. Fiennes is outstanding as Dickens, and Felicity Jones (Like Crazy) is riveting as always playing his mistress, Nelly. The images presented are not that of a struggling amateur director, but one with a clear sense of cinema and visual storytelling. The cinematography is beautiful. Yet still, despite general excellence, it’s all pretty typical. They’re doing boring things, but they’re doing them really, really well.
The story focuses on Nelly, whose off-balance relationship with Dickens stirs contemplations of the repressed female. While Dickens may gallivant about as per usual, Nelly must hide and become invisible, as suggested by the title. While again intriguing, it ultimately has little to nothing new to add to these concepts.
The Invisible Woman is a perfectly competent period piece, which is worth seeing if the subject matter interests you, but the muted responses it continues to receive are well founded.