A secret love affair in a time when these things were discouraged is the bases of this women’s life. Ellen “Nellie” Ternan has a secret love affair with Charles Dickens that may change the way we view this historic writer.
The story begins in Margate, England in 1883 when Mrs. George Wharton Robinson, known as Nellie (Felicity Jones) is putting on a play with her school students from the works of Charles Dickens (Ralph Fiennes). After the completion of the play her husband, George Wharton Robinson (Tom Burke), has a party in honor of their successful completion of the play and shows off her collection of Charles Dickens books. When Rev. William Benham (John Kavanagh), has interest in a particular piece of work by Dickens she begins to have flashbacks to her past experience with this historical man.
The story continues with many flashbacks to detailed experiences that she had with Charles, starting from their first meeting when she participates in a rehearsal of a play written by Wilkie Collins (Tom Hollander), Charles’s best friend and fellow author. Her mother Mrs. Frances Ternan (Kristin Scott Thomas) and her sisters Maria (Perdita Weeks) and Fanny Ternan (Amanda Hale) are involved with the play that eventually goes on in front of a thrilled audience. With Nellie working so close to Charles they start to fall for each other. They continue to work together on many theatrical projects and spend more time together. The relationship begins to get more involved and continues for many years being kept as a secret to everyone including Charles’s wife Catherine (Joanna Scanlan).
Director Ralph Fiennes does a good job recreating this mysterious secret love affair. The recreation of this time period and the blending of Nellie’s later life of her time with Charles were performed thoroughly. He helps you understand Nellie’s true feelings for Charles and how hard things were for her to not reveal their involvement together. The period settings look realistic and help make the story believable.
A well performed film that does a great job with the time period and displays the storyline accurately. It is an interesting story at a time when forbidden relationships were persecuted. The way the story was displayed was a perfect fit to understanding how the main character felt from this historic experience.
Final Grade: I give this a C for its excellent recreation of this forbidden love story.
Director: Ralph Fiennes
Runtime: 111 minutes (1 hour and 51 minutes)
MPAA Rating: Rated R for some sexual content.