The Invisible Woman is a meticulously rendered, tasteful and moving period drama. Artfully directed by Ralph Fiennes, who also stars, it chronicles a love affair that lasted for the last dozen years of the life of Charles Dickens. Fans of the author will be particularly enraptured. An emotionally incisive story, this account of the little-known relationship between Dickens in middle age and a much younger woman, named Nelly Ternan, moves at a stately pace.
The intriguing tale begins with Nelly (Felicity Jones), a married woman and schoolteacher, looking back on her years with the author. The story flashes forward and backward effectively, conveying Nelly’s haunted obsession with Dickens.
The British ensemble cast is first-rate. Jones is magnificent as Nelly and the brilliant Fiennes is almost unrecognizable as Dickens, alternately ebullient and brooding. The production design is impeccable, powerfully evoking the era. Shot in burnished hues, the story is steeped in rich detail.
What begins as a tentative friendship in the mid-19th century, when Nelly is an 18-year-old actress, evolves into a passionate romance, although Dickens is married and the father of 10 children. Based on Claire Tomalin’s 1990 novel, the screenplay is adapted vibrantly by Abi Morgan.